As I write this, I am preparing to retire from a career that has spanned almost thirty-three years and earned my family and me a good living.
I’m reminded of something I ran across in a book written by James Autry: He writes, “There can be a terrible loss of identity when you retire. If you have defined yourself by what you do . . . then when what you do goes away, so does a large part of the person you perceive yourself to be.”
I am reminded life isn’t about work or accomplishments. Work, for me, is merely the way I provided for my family’s needs.
I believe that relationships are far more important than achievements. Relationships, properly established and fed, begin at a point in time, and grow to become something noteworthy. They are the bonds that hold us together, giving meaning to life.
We simply do not retire from relationships. Those built upon good foundations and properly nourished add excitement to each day we live.
Recently, I took my four-year-old grandson to Bob Evans for breakfast. As we sat and ate, we chatted about what was important to him. He isn’t very complicated, not yet having encountered the complexities of life. As we talked, he said, “Grandpa, do you like being with me?” As I reflected on his question, it reinforced my conviction that the moments I spend with those I love are far more important to me than all of my achievements at work. I responded, “I sure do. I love spending time with you. And I sure do like eating breakfast with you.” And I meant it.
A few years ago, our family spent a weekend camping at a Kentucky lake. As our two daughters and I were sitting by the side of the lake, our older daughter picked up a small stone, tossed it into the lake, and said, “It just doesn’t get any better than this, does it?” I grunted in affirmation, conceding that she was right on target. Shared times with those we love are important.
As I prepare to leave my workplace, we will reminisce about our experiences together, finding humor in some, and fond memories in others. I will have to confess, as I shared with a friend and coworker, that I really won’t miss the work. But I sure will miss the people; they made the difference in the place where I worked. I won’t take any of my completed projects, my performance assessments, or my monthly activity reports with me. I’ll leave them at work. The experiences I’ve had with my friends and coworkers are different though; those are the treasures I’ll take away from my workplace. They’ve become a part of me, and I have become a part of them.
I will now be able to devote more time where it really counts: with my wife and dear companion, my children and their families, my Mom, my brothers and their families, and my in-laws. I’ve fulfilled the provider role so important to me over the years. I am now going to invest my time and energies in what I believe is one of the most important things in life: my relationships with those I love.
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