Tomorrow will be the last day for one of our longer-term employees. Each time someone leaves, through retirement or just moving on to other opportunities, I can’t help but wonder what they must be feeling. Submitting the resignation notice must be exciting, but as the days go by between their resignation and their last day, I’ll bet there is a lot of fear that begins to creep in. They are leaving something that is safe and familiar; a secure form of income; a social network; and for people like me, they are leaving behind their identity to others. Will they have enough money? What will they do all day? And, when my time comes…where will I get my feeling of achievement and satisfaction from?
My first job was working as a cook at the local A & W restaurant just a few short blocks from my house. Not yet quite 16, it was intimidating walking into the restaurant as the returning staff were having their first meeting of the summer. All eyes were on me as I opened the door, received the application and sat down in a small corner booth to fill it out while they began discussing how the summer would go.
Learning how to be an adult began with that job as I moved from cook to a supervisor position. I learned how to concentrate and work hard (something that came easy since it was expected in our household). I learned about customer service and how to manually count change. I learned about inventory and staffing and ordering. I learned about business, but more than that, I learned how to work with others of divergent personalities and styles and behaviors. And I learned that when I am good at something, even if it is being a lowly cook at a drive-in restaurant for $1.62 per hour, I enjoy work. Donning that orange and brown polyester uniform top and chocolate brown corduroy pants became part of me. I was good at that job and proud to be employed by owners Jake and Lorraine.
For many people, work is simply a necessity; a task you must perform to pay bills and feed your family. It’s the lucky ones that find jobs/careers that fulfill their soul and give them purpose; jobs like the A&W was for me back then and my current job is now.
I have loved my jobs, most of the people I have worked with and the life those jobs have given me. I am one of the lucky ones who gets up most every morning happy to go to work and knowing that when I do, I will be darn good at it.
Family and friends aside, if your validation as an adult comes from doing well in your chosen career, where do you get that same feeling after you retire? Maybe you’ve seen it too, but for some people, those without hobbies or outside interests, retirement becomes the beginning of the end rather than the new chapter it should be. Their reason for getting up each morning is gone, and they flounder without a purpose in life and without the support network their ex-colleagues provided.
As retirement creeps closer for me, I might have been one of those with few hobbies that would take me out into the world. Then I discovered I could write and suddenly life without my day job will literally be the beginning of my next chapter as I continue to write. As enticing as a successful writing career is, even if I never sell another book, I will continue to write and share those stories with family and friends. Telling a story through the pages of a manuscript allows me to share a part of me that others never see. It fills my time and if I may be so arrogant, those stories become my legacy.
The legacy that previously would only have existed in a few words on a tombstone can now be found in a Google search. Search my name today and there are over 36,000 hits. Not all me certainly, but more than I ever had working at the A&W or even the City. If a legacy is the ability for people to look me up years after I am gone, I have one and hopefully it will all be good.
What will my legacy be? Daughter, sister, City employee, author? Will it say that I made the most of every moment of my life? I can only hope.
I hope your legacy is everything you want it to be. Until we meet again dear readers, be well…