Retiring Gracefully (well, kinda) After Given the Boot

Senior management staff at my office were disappearing at a rapid clip – there one day, gone the next.

When I started there 10 years earlier, I was pleased that many of my peers were of “my generation.”

This year, at 63, I was one of the oldest still there. But there was a certain whiff in the air that my days were numbered:

  • I won a significant national award and no one in the “C-suite” offered congratulations.
  • I landed a placement of a radio story about one of our programs that was broadcast to an audience of more than half a million.

Not a peep from the top.

So I suspected something. I thought I’d discuss it with my boss, maybe offering to retire gracefully after finishing up my many projects.

But then my boss called me into a meeting that wasn’t our usual monthly tete-a-tete and I saw the HR guy there as well …
I knew I was about to become the latest of the disappeared.

While it wasn’t a shock, it was definitely a blow to my ego.

I had planned to continue working until I qualified for full Social Security in late 2014. Few companies will hire a middle manager my age. I had to face the reality that my days of full-time employment were over.

Getting fired took me through something like the grief process Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described. When faced with a terminal diagnosis, for themselves or a loved one, people often experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.

Denial was a physical feeling of numbness. I couldn’t concentrate. I had no appetite (the upside was that in the first three weeks I lost five pounds).

I was definitely angry.

Instead of bargaining, I experienced retroactive self-blame: “If only I had done this, or hadn’t done that, or had done the other thing differently.”

And there was definitely depression.

No, getting fired is not good for the ego.

I’d been fired before. The first time, the CEO had a falling out with the board and quit, and all those closely associated with him were soon given the boot. The second time I was grieving the departure of a boss I was very close to – and neglected to suck up to the new boss.

Both times I was canned, we had three children at home or in college. And the second time,  I had to cough up more than $600 a month to continue family health care because my husband was self-employed at the time.

Somehow we survived.

It has to be noted that I feel incredibly blessed that while I want to work, I don’t have to work. Thanks to frugality and some lucky investments, we have a nest egg that can support us. We paid off our mortgage last year; the kids are on their own. My husband has a pension and a bit of income from a home business.

The good news is that even if I never work again, I know we won’t be homeless or hungry.

I decided not to even look for a full-time job but to concentrate on what I do best and what I enjoy the most: writing and editing. I found a catchy, available URL, registered it as a “doing business as” name with the state, and created a simple website – quite a feat for an admitted techno-moron.

After a few weeks, I no longer woke up with a stomach ache.

In fact, I started appreciating the benefits to being “retired.”  I can read the whole newspaper in the morning! I can go for long walks during the day! I can do more volunteer work! I can visit my granddaughter when Spirit offers cheap flights to New York!  Oops, too many !’s.

But I just might learn to like this.


photo credit: stevendepolo


About Bobbie

Barbara (Bobbie to you) Lewis was once a reporter for a daily newspaper but found her career niche in putting her communications skills to work for nonprofit organizations. More than 36 years ago she moved to Detroit from Philly, had three babies, grew roots, and tried to be a good Jew - whatever that means. She's still figuring it out. Meantime, she votes liberal, dotes on her toddler granddaughter and supports her hubby, Joe, who runs a small home-based business. Oh yes, she's got degrees from Antioch College, Temple and Central Michigan along with a shelf full of accolades for writing and publication production - whatever that means.

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