I might have retired twice from the same company.
I officially retired in 2015, and I’d had given a year’s notice. I could have continued working, but the fact was that my skills, experience, and abilities were being wasted. I could have continued for a few more years, perhaps hoping for another general downsizing and a severance package, but work had become almost painful.
When I told the head of the department of my plan to retire, the response was surprising. He became angry. It wasn’t as if I was irreplaceable. Without really knowing, I suspect it was more a case of I was doing it on my timetable, and it wasn’t something the department was planning on its timetable.
But it was time to go. I also passed on the usual big retirement bash, and that really upset people. Perhaps I was being petulant, but the “conscientious objector” – my official categorization in management reviews – didn’t want to go through an experience which, for all of us, would have hypocritical at best. Instead, I had a lunch in the cafeteria with colleagues in my immediate department. I made sure all of my responsibilities were covered.
You might consider it a poem written with considerable regret.
Three years later, I was asked to come back for a short-term project. One of my previous responsibilities had been the company archives. With the company moving toward becoming part of another (and larger) company, something needed to be done with a number of archival materials, artifacts, and files. Part of the project also included assembling a company timeline of major events and achievements.
I found homes for old executive paintings; in some cases, it was with descendants; others ended up with specialty museums. One even ended up in London, after some extensive amateur detective work on my part. Files and artifacts kept in old storage rooms were sorted and sent to a number of different places. The timeline was assembled and packaged into a brochure. Speeches were found and packaged.
My work ranged from online genealogical research to find descendants to preparing paintings and old photographs for shipping and delivery. I had wonderful conversations with family members and museum directors. One of the most difficult aspects was tracking down descendants of the company founder, to see if they wanted his official portrait and a considerable number of personal artifacts. I finally made a connection – and the descendant was in London. And he did want the materials, which included the founder’s Moroccan leather portfolio and old family photographs, which the family had thought lost and never realized actually were filed in the company archives. The painting that hung over a fireplace in the company’s conference center now hangs at a family estate in rural England.
It was the best kind of farewell project.
When I finished, shortly before the company disappeared as a separate entity, I realized that I had retired again, but this time in a better and positive way.
Instead of regret, I had written a poem in acceptance, appreciation, and understanding of what really mattered.
From Poetry at Work: “The poetry of work is always unfinished, even when we step away from the workplaces and work spaces where we first began to see poetry come alive in our everyday activities. Poetry is part of every aspect of our work experience, from our first job to our last one.”