(I need to preface this by saying that I don’t believe that everyone needs to retire. This post is simply me sharing my own unique story, not some “universal wisdom” or “advice” for everyone. ????)
How I retired
I retired from my job in early 2019. I say “retired”, but I did not tell my ex-colleagues that I was planning to never work again. Truthfully, I told them very little because I didn’t want to answer any questions.
My decision to retire was the result of my getting very sick for a period of time, sicker than I had ever been before. But I kept that to myself. I just wanted to leave, and do so on my own terms, which was peacefully, happily and with as little fuss as possible.
I was a bad person for much of my life
For much of my life — from maybe when I was 10 years old or so, I was not a very good person. I was insecure, fearful, proud, vain, callous, and selfish. Whenever I felt scared or insecure, which was practically my default state, I would lash out to hurt someone else as best as I could with words, and these were usually the people who I loved the most.
I know now why I acted that way for so many years, and the very short version is that my life became a different one after my mother passed away when I was 5, and the adult carers around me (including two stepmothers and an aunt) seem to have made it their mission to make me feel unwanted, worthless, and most of all, inherently unloved.
I only started to learn fairly recently that many personality disorders can stem from an insecure childhood, abandonment, and a lack of love. Even though I mentally understand the real pyschological reasons for my bad and shameful behaviour for most of my life, the crux of the matter remains that I was not a good person.
And it’s very hard to feel compassion for myself or to forgive my own past bad behaviour because the memories of when I had behaved badly and hurt others are in Full Resolution HD and Surround Sound in my brain.
Despite being a horrible person, oddly enough, at the same time, I was a very good student, and later on, a very good employee. Throughout my career and across several jobs (the last one having lasted 10 years), I knew that I was a good and valuable worker.
I was no genius or talent, but I worked hard, didn’t complain, was pleasant and easy to work with, and did my best to be dependable and produce good work, even if it meant working until midnight and sacrificing my health. I was a gold star employee.
I say this not to brag, but the opposite.
Because when the best thing that I could say about myself is that I was a good worker, then something was seriously wrong with me.
It took me going through the worst period of my life (my father’s death) to see that, and to realise that I needed to make many changes.
Retiring from work was a huge part of my attempt to make those changes within myself. It freed me from a job that I once loved, but had grown to despise in the final few years.
Retirement gave me the precious hours and unconditional space I needed to rest, to think, to suffer, to grieve, and to heal in little tiny baby steps. I doubt that I would have been able to start this next chapter of my life had I stayed in my job.
I still struggle mightily sometimes, and I have plenty of challenges day-to-day, some of which are spiritual and some of which are physical and have to do with my illness (autoimmune in nature).
But by wholly removing the all-consuming stress, distraction and exhaustion that came with my job, I feel that I have a better chance of unwinding the painful spools of my past, of facing my shame for causing so much hurt to others, and of looking for the ways and means to heal and become a better human being.
And I don’t believe in coincidences.
The truth is — if I hadn’t gotten so sick back then, there was no way I would have even considered leaving my job no matter how miserable it made me. It was only that bout of serious illness that made me so scared that I first considered the real possibility of retirement and then started planning for it.
I believe that even when I couldn’t see what I needed to do, life knew what had to happen to make me get on the path I needed the most. And I am very grateful whenever I remember that.