The last Fortnight of a working life
One can only spend so much time listening to the radio with headphones on, reading emails, soliciting work from colleagues, and trying to come up with something to do, before boredom sets in. I wrote this story while listening to the radio show Definitely Not The Opera with Sook Yin Lee life broadcast from Saskatoon while texting on WhatsApp with my girlfriend in Amsterdam, sitting at my desk trying to be busy, doing what’s expected from a good civil servant. What’s to complain about, you ask? I hate boredom, can’t stand it; I want–no, need–to be busy!
I have become an inconvenient employee at the end of my work life, caught up with all the work available within and outside the parameters of my job description, looking desperately to fill my day with useful activities. My new supervisor further restricted the scope of my activities, and anyway, she is too busy catching up with her new role to wreck her brain on finding something for me to do.
Sure, purely for something to do, I could try to decorate an ugly Christmas sweater at work with sewn-on applications, so I can wear one–a request from upper management in an attempt to spread some holiday cheer—but no, that’s not me. I already decorated my office with last year’s stuff, but this year my window is squeaky-clean as well, because I have lots of time to cover for the failing janitor. You see, I am on the count down, with fourteen days until retirement, after a working life of 50+ years that started full time and full speed at age nineteen. With a bit of luck I get to be retired for another 20 years joining the silver wave.
Not many of my personal items are left to pack, as I dismantled my 2.5×5 meter spot—half the size of a prison cell, but more comfortable—that I occupied for the last stretch of my working life. Half of my waking hours are spent at work, and yet the space was hard to make personal at the best of times. After my re-assignment, two years ago, I didn’t bother anymore with making the space mine: it was just a station on the way out. Like in the movies, I want to walk out on my last day of work with just one banker’s box and a smile on my face.
The R word is on everybody’s lips these days. Most often, the voice of the lucky ones, close to that hallowed status, contain tones of anticipated liberation, while others can only yearn, calculating how many more years until freedom will come to them. Sometimes, questions and concerns arise about falling into an abyss without work. “What are you going to do all day?”
Yes, what? Travel, of course, and being away, and then travel to warm spots again.
But, first what I will do after I wake up, is not getting into get-ready-for-work mode, unless I chose to do so for an event that is not-work. I have no illusions of sleeping in with a cat (the little one in the photo, the black one has died) that is allowed in my bedroom and wakes me mornings with a gentle tap on my closed eyes, my mouth or nose. When I don’t respond, she drags a bit of claw over my skull, enough to be uncomfortable. Once or twice she has taken my nose between her four canines and the rest of the thirty teeth, luckily with not enough force to break my skin, just to warn me it is time to feed her. This week I noticed some tiny, crusty claw marks on my arm, with skin less sensitive, so I did not wake up. I must have been warm and sleeping heavily when she was ready to get up.
The coffee ritual is my daily treat already now, so why change a good thing? I ground my own coffee and brew a cup in my expresso maker. I enjoy it with my toast, religiously protecting this quiet time at the start of my day. After retirement, I might even take a second cup!
Next, I will read the newspaper on my iPad App, a luxury I allow myself on weekends only, but now any day I want to. Can we still call it a newspaper when no paper is involved?
I used to think this national paper was for conservatives, or least the centre/right in the Canadian political spectrum, and I was progressive, so what happened? Had I possibly become conservative over the years? Or did the nation’s conservatives turn ultra conservative, so that my paper needed to object and turn more progressive? Whichever the case might be, it turned out the Globe and Mail is the only national paper that I can stomach.
Harper made Canada look so intolerant with much finger pointing, finding targets for derision in women and members of non-Caucasian groups that I started to feel I should leave this country again. I was very happy that Harper and his crew of ultra conservatives-bordering-on-neo-fascists were thrown out of government. Hurray for common sense! As someone with definitive interests in politics, I just might volunteer with the upcoming preparations for changes in our electoral system, now that I have time on my hands.
But, as a writer, my real job in retirement will be writing a third novel and entered a course to that purpose through UBC on line by Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon, BC authors of novels that I enjoyed. I am excited and can’t wait to start this new phase of my life.
My office in Ajijic. Mexico
I will enrol in Spanish lessons. Habla Espanol? and hopefully will make new friends, away from work.
These photos are of local women and girls for a campaign to eat healthier, as so many in Mexico are overweight, threatening their health, mostly due to the vast amounts of pop and sugary snacks, not indigenous to their culture.
Next time I will write about the first year of retirement.
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