I don’t have much to say about art these days: I have been rushing headlong toward retirement! So, this blog is about that and not very much about art, I’m afraid. My last work day is December 30th. Like most people, I imagine, I have been working since I was 14, and working full-time (until the last few years as I tapered down) since finishing school. I have had the same career my entire adult life.
Although my work schedule has been greatly reduced the last two or three years, I have been interested to note that it doesn’t really feel like a partial retirement. I certainly feel like I have more room in my schedule. But even working very part-time, I still define myself as a psychologist and a working person. I think it will take not working at all to feel like my life is truly my own.
Retiring from being a psychologist and a therapist is not like retiring from any other work, I think. I have had a forty year career. This means that there are some people whom I have seen off and on for decades. We have passed through life together, from early adulthood to retirement age. I have had the incredible privilege of witnessing the unfolding of their lives, and have often been there to walk with them through the difficult periods. I have accompanied them through relationship beginnings and endings, through losses, through career struggles, through tragedies, through episodes of depression and anxiety. I care about their lives; these people sit close to my heart. I am saying goodbye after goodbye.
I once described to a colleague how great the loss was for such a client: how I knew this person so thoroughly, had such an extended history with her and a relationship of such mutual trust and recognition. My colleague said simply: “She will never have that again.” And I thought, yes, I just have to accept that, as does my client. I have to accept that I will not again do this work that I have found deeply moving and satisfying. I will not know how all these life stories will turn out.
And yet I feel ready to retire. It is also very hard indeed to bear witness to suffering day after day. I have sometimes said that in my work I have eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: while I have seen enormous courage and decency, I have also heard of horrendous trauma, profound pain. I am weary of carrying all those souls. While their lives are their own, when they come to me for help, there is also a way that I take them on. What will my life be without that responsibility, without that regular focus on suffering?
I cannot imagine what my life will be like after work! I recently read the book “How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free.” When I saw the title, I thought, yes! I want to retire happy, wild and free! The book suggested you make a list of at least 50 things you would like to do in retirement, and I now have a list of over 60. That gives me a starting point, at least. But I will have to feel my way into it, I think. I recently planned a trip to visit a friend this January, and it was such a surprise to think, I can travel any day of the week! I don’t have to think about scheduling around a weekend or how long I’m away or getting coverage for work! Amazing.
In the meantime, I have been clearing out my office, culling files (I am obligated to keep records for seven years, but can shred anything older than that), giving things away. I am giving away my professional library — that certainly feels momentous! I have hauled things home, thrown things out. I have found someone to rent the office space.
And that, dear readers, is why I do not currently have much to say about art!