Expanding the Conversation
In our next session, Dr. Katz asked me if I was feeling any better since we started our meetings.
I hadn’t really thought about it, but much to my surprise, I said yes. Just the past week, on my way to work, I noticed how beautiful the foliage on trees looked on the drive in. And on a lunch-break, I went for a walk and saw squirrels chasing one another and involuntarily laughed, thinking of the ridiculousness of mammalian mating rituals.
I was taking pleasure in regular life again. Things were indeed looking brighter.
That’s good. It means you’re making progress. You feel like you’re going somewhere again.
Yes, I suppose that I do. But I’m still thinking a lot about all of the issues that need to be overcome prior to retirement. I thought it’d be really easy to quit, once I had enough money. I didn’t realize I wasn’t emotionally ready.
Most people aren’t. You might not know it, but retirement is very stressful for most people. They have to learn how to be a different person from what they’ve become in the workplace. Many of the skills they learned in order to be successful in an office environment don’t translate into anything of use in retirement. These things, taken together, can work to hold people back from being happy; the old dogs need to learn new tricks.
The good news is that most people figure it out. It helps that you’re making the effort. This is a sign that you’ll manage the transition in stride.
You’ve been waiting for more than a decade to give yourself a chance to live a life outside of the office but it hasn’t happened yet. You’re blocked on goal completion.
Can you explain what you mean by that?
Not being able to achieve a goal, i.e. to satisfy a desire, is the textbook definition of frustration. You put in work to get a reward. But the reward isn’t here yet.
To an extent, you think you’re getting a reward because you’re continuing to save money, and over the years you’ve retrained your brain to feel like that’s good in and of itself. Your brain releases dopamine and other mood enhancing chemicals as you watch your assets rise. But it’s not enough, because what you really want, deep down inside, is to quit your job. This is what you’ve promised yourself, ultimately, for your efforts over the past decade or more. Am I wrong?
The positive feedback from saving is not nearly as powerful for you as it was five years ago because you don’t think you really need the extra money. What I’ve heard from you over our sessions is that what you really need is to move on.
I have some news to share with you now. I’m retiring next month myself.
You’re kidding me.
Dr. Katz can’t contain a grin. It lights up his face and I find I’m thrilled for him.
Wow. I mean, just, wow. That’s terrific. I never would have guessed. How long have you known?
More than a couple of years. I stop practicing in just a month. I enjoy what I do, but it’s just time.
Wait. How old are you again? Are you afraid?
56, and yes, very. But mixed in with the fear is an undercurrent of overwhelming happiness that I haven’t experienced in years. It’s the right choice for me at this stage of my life. I know it is. And given what you’ve told me so far, I think it’s probably the right choice for you as well.
Again, not that you need it, but I’m giving you permission to retire. Set a date, no more than a year out. Do it tomorrow if you want, or take a full year to resolve a few of the pending issues you’ve identified. But no longer. You need to do this for yourself.
You’ve got to do it, because you’ve been striving for it for so long.
Your depression has been caused, as best I can tell, by refusing to give yourself the reward which you’ve been working toward so long.
Besides, what’s the worst case scenario, that you go back to work because you’re bored? If that were the worst case scenario for everyone on the planet, I think more than half of the global workforce would quit tomorrow.
I wholeheartedly agreed.
At any rate, I think that you’re well on the way to resolving problem #1, Logistics. I suggest you ignore Problem #2, What Comes Next. Related, ignore giving back. You’ll figure that out post-retirement. I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you.
Retiring will also resolve problem #5, purposelessness at work.
As for the bucket-of-fear, you could get more involved in the forums you said you visit. Talk about your concerns with other like-minded people. Discuss it further with your spouse. Write about it.
Also, take it from me. I’m 56, and I don’t feel old. You’re only 36 and if you tell me again that you think you’re ancient and washed up, I’m going to kick you out of my office right now.
You’ll be fine. I guarantee it. It’s time to let go of this phase and do what you need to do.
Are you still talking to me, buddy? Or are you talking to yourself?
Both, of course. Time’s over. I’ll see you next week.