Two Weeks’ Noticing

Doom takes off the mask and puts on his 20/10 vision glasses for incredible insight.  Too bad he doesn't know how to hook the frame around his ear.

Doom takes off the mask and puts on his 20/10 vision glasses for incredible insight.
Too bad he doesn’t know how to hook the frame around his ear so they don’t fall off.  Dumbass.

Giving your final notice at work is an amazing thing.

And it’s not for the reason you might automatically assume.  Truth is, I didn’t take all that much pleasure in the act of quitting itself — it wasn’t an angry quit.  It was an ‘I’m Just Done With This Now, Okay?’-type thing.

Instead, I’m much more surprised at the change in my vision and awareness.

The thing is, when you’re working somewhere, you suppress a whole lot. It’s important to do this — to push your thoughts down somewhere, submerging them somewhere safe, somewhere the accumulation of petty irritations won’t resurface to bother you, at least until the weekend when you’re half in the bag and it’s okay vent a little. Suppression is a wonderful self-defense mechanism — it allows you to hide undesirable aspects of your job somewhere else so you can focus on the positive and be productive as you hack away at your career.

But when you are done forever, you stop suppressing and start looking around you in a different way.  You see things you’d seen a million times before but it’s all suddenly brand new.

Lots of people on early retirement message boards talk about a feeling of unreality during the final weeks at work.  It was surreal, they say.  I felt like it wasn’t even happening.

This is my take on why this description is offered:  Everything you’ve been holding down your entire working career bobs to the top, and you walk through the hallways with a sense of hyper-alertness, coupled with disconnection from your employer and an increased awareness of yourself, your own internal voice.

And you notice everything.

You become Superman with x-ray sight.  Batman with high-tech telescoping goggles. Hawkeye with 20/2 vision.  

Quitting for the final time in your career instantly upgrades your Office Vision from black and white 320×180 to full streaming 10 billion color high contrast HD 4x in glorious 3D^7.

It’s no wonder that your brain feels a little overwhelmed by the change.

** I know I recently promised to stop complaining about work.  Thing is, a) this isn’t complaining.  It’s observing.  Totally different.   And b) I’ve also pledged to honestly talk about the transition between working and retirement.  This is, for better or worse, the stuff that’s going on in my life.  And there you have it.

NOTE:  This is a multi-page post – there are links to additional pages below.

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49 Responses to Two Weeks’ Noticing

  1. Erin says:

    Am envious and delighted for you! This post reminds me of an article I saw yesterday: All about faking your personality at work. (But the article doesn’t talk about the permanent fix: save up enough $$ to be able to give up work and reclaim yourself…) Have a surreal few days!

  2. bmar11513 says:

    Love the iphone analogy

  3. brooklynguy says:

    Wow – in my field, we have to record our time in six-minute increments, but at least there’s an inherently logical rationale for that (at least for as long as the billable hour persists in the legal industry).

    Thanks for another great psychological perspective, but I would note that your employment-bullshit-piercing perceptive abilities (at least as expressed through this blog) seemed to be laser-sharp even during your working career. Maybe having an outlet like this blog helps to sharpen those senses?

    • Prob8 says:

      Yeah, the six-minute increment time tracking sucks ass. To be fair, most other aspects of the practice of law suck balloon knot too – at least for me.

    • livafi says:

      Tenth-of-an-hour blocks are not granular enough: you should recommend an industry move to 3-minute blocks (1/20th of an hour increments.) The bar is always rising. (There’s a joke somewhere in there re: bar, methinks)

  4. Fuzzy Buttons says:

    I’m not your senior friend, but I pretty much could be. The only difference is I’ve already found MMM and have started on the path to FI. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the email. Though, fair warning, the first time I found MMM I was a bit turned off. Too “hipppy dippy”, I thought. It took another year and working my way through more normal retirement and personal finance blogs before I approached him again and got where he was coming from. I’m hardly a blind follower – the life I live and will live is very different than his. But the basic principal of applying logic to increase your happiness is sound.

    As always, love reading the posts. I currently have to track my time in three separate systems. one for HR, one for client support, and one for engineering. *sigh* Still, it’s part of the job and, in the wide scheme of things, I’m lucky to have the kind of work I do. Doesn’t mean I want to do it forever.

    It’s funny what the last straw can be for people. For your coworker it was the time management. I remember years ago an older worker at my company declared he’d had enough when they instituted a rule that he couldn’t wear his hat at work. I still remember him heading out the door that day – calm, happy, and wearing his hat like boss. 🙂

    • livafi says:

      I had similar thoughts about MMM when I started reading him but his positive, no-bullshit attitude and underlying practicality won me over very quickly. But to your point, I’ll issue a warning to my soon-to-be-ex work friend to focus on content first — to read posts as a potential solution to a potential life problem — rather than lasering in on tone.

      Thanks for the hat story. It’s terrific.

  5. bilgepump100 says:

    Fake projects. Fake deadlines. Mirages of people who fade in and out of our office experience. The digital movement has many of us lusting for something more tangible. A real garden to grow. A real bathroom to renovate. A table to craft. We don’t mind sweat and hard work. But we long for something we can touch and feel. We’re turning into automatons. Mechanical Turks. All of our projects will be assigned a strict time frame. Stop be human. Failing to adhere unleashes a shame chain. Even bathroom breaks will be timed. We’re compliant and also competitive. We can stay motivated to beat each others’ time. It’s a game. We like games. They’re addictive. But soon we will be frisked after breaks like Amazon warehouse workers. Well we would, if there was anything worth stealing at the office. But there isn’t. Because now we are being asked to supply our of own phones, computers, lamps, etc. Everything is ours except for our time. We must be available to beat the fake deadlines 24/7. Have to be. Your team (family) depends on it. Digital tethers mean we can check out but we can never leave. The constant dropping of projects on us like Galaga ships keep us zapping away. The zap sound feels good for awhile. You can achieve a high score and get digital cash transferred into your digital bank account. But the projects keep coming. And you realize even the zap sound is contrived. Get out. Touch the earth. Our time is short.

    • Jared says:

      My nomination for poet laureate of this the FIRE movement: the commenter above.

    • Marco says:

      Very beautifully put, thank you.

    • JohnGoes says:

      I am meeting with the HR rep today because he heard from my manager that I’m retiring in September. After 33 years staring at monitors sticking invisible to the naked eyes bits together, I get to go off and build beautiful, functional things with my hands and I get to do so on my own terms because real estate investment returns will exceed my expenses by July of next year. I get to work for fun!

      The chip design projects I deal with now are real to someone, and the schedule is real to someone, but that someone on high that deals these mandates down to us has absolutely no connection to reality. (At least if you value keeping promises and delivering quality product.) My goal after the September exit is to carefully consider every project tossed my way and only accept those that I can commit to and deliver with quality. That’s not to say I won’t accept a challenge, but it will be a challenge I can solve and grow from.

  6. David says:

    Wonderful post. So many things to say. I’d also +1 emailing your friend. It’s the Cave analogy – sometimes the option to escape isn’t perceivable until someone points it out. Not saying it will work, but it’s necessary to at least try.

    The last straw for me was when my boss starting riding me for writing during downtime. No. I had to stand on the sales floor with shit all to do, because at least 1/3 of the time there was either no, or not enough customers to be actively selling. I still wrote and pushed back (and won, even before I quit) but the mere FACT that he gave me a problem about it was enough.

    The time management and disconnection from work stuff is really scary to me on a philosophical, concerned about humanity’s direction, level. (Which, if you don’t know me, is actually a very intense emotional and intellectual place.) That’s why I’ve become so attracted to the new wave of back-to-the-land. It’s frankly ridiculous, to me, that the most fundamental craftsmen in our society (farmers, tradesman, teachers) are often the lowest paid and least appreciated.

    The perverse modern economics around food production, when the life-energy in food is the foundation of any civilization, is a book-length rant in itself (for which I’d recommend someone like Joel Salatin), but I’ll stop there…. Whew.

    Sorry to rant on your now rant-free blog… 😉

    • Jared says:

      But doesn’t it make sense that work with real, tangible results would be more rewarding/sought after, increasing competition for such jobs and driving down wages?

      I have a theory that, ignoring education or certification requirements, the more tangible and meaningful a career is, the less it pays (due to the situation noted above).

    • livafi says:

      Don’t apologize for leaving an awesome comment, and I agree with much of what you wrote.
      BTW, this blog will never be rant free. But I do pledge to move on from work-focused posts once this phase is over. Which is very, very soon.

  7. Just lovely Doom. I had a similar temporary hours reporting thing close to the end. I got yelled at for being totally honest, because fuckit-just-fire-me-already. Like noting bathroom trips and the number of [assets] produced, “having my time wasted by a clueless internal auditor”, “Fixing PC-load/letter error on multifunction printer”, “rebooting computer three times to install oh so important ‘mandatory’ software upgrade”, etc. Part of that super hero vision is knowing they can’t intimidate you with yelling or ‘notes in your file’ or some such. I reckon my report was the only one that was sufficiently accurate to provide actionable intelligence.

    • livingafi says:

      Some more: 1) Super talkative coworker caught me in the hallway and burned 20 minutes of my time talking about things irrelevant to any currently assigned projects as I watched a bead of white spittle develop on the corner of his mouth 2) network outage locked me out 3) RSA token broke and could not work on internal systems that day.

  8. g-dog says:

    I think you notice everything, because like all endings, this is “the last time I will ever do/see X”. it is like senior year in high school – this is a major transition! You are happy and excited (YAY – new wonderful future!), but also sad and a little scared (I will miss Doom, I enjoyed talking to him; am I really ready/worthy for my new wonderful future?).

  9. itamarst says:

    Could you please please get rid of the numbered pages thing? I missed parts 2-6 first time even though I already saw previous article that had that structure.

    • livafi says:

      I’ll add a note to the first page stating it’s a multi-page post. Definitely don’t want to make it difficult for people to read. But trust me, most people don’t want to consume a 4000-word single page blog post. Browsers weren’t really meant for that much content on a single page.

      • David says:

        It’s mainly that the theme doesn’t make the page indicators very clear. I almost missed it as well. Not sure how easy it is to modify WP themes, but putting it above the “share this” buttons would make it MUCH more obvious.

      • livafi says:

        Easy back when I ran my own WP site. Difficult now — I have to pay money to in order to update .css directly.
        Instead I just removed all the social media stuff so the links pop out right under the end of the text. Hopefully this helps.

  10. FirePaddle says:

    This post was especially beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. Reepekg says:

    Ohhhh… the hours tracking. My wife and I constantly joke with one another on gchat “What’s the time code for ‘not doing shit’?”

    The thing I dislike about this system of control most is that it has turned me into a professional liar. Oftentimes, the most critical tasks are not directly billable, so I would get yelled at by management for charging time to things that really need to get done but have no customer. Instead, I’m forced to manipulate my hours so it looks like I’m working on the “right” projects. With that kind of accuracy, a waste of everyone’s time all around!

  12. Tyler says:

    The sense of detachment where everything feels like a facade was especially strong when I recently retired. You’ll really enjoy the first few weeks afterwards when you think about everyone still chugging along in the same routine and it all feels so unnecessary. If you happen to talk to them later, you’ll sense the claws marks in their back and the anxiety you lived with for years and it will all feel very strange. Detoxing is an important part of the process.

    • livafi says:

      >> Detoxing is an important part of the process.
      Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I’m looking forward to this phase. I’m about 30 hours away from the starting point, as I type this.

  13. Clare says:

    Loved this, as I’ve loved everything you’ve written in the past year. Your thoughts about suppression really resonated; suppressing doubts has been essential for me to “pass.” Doing this is almost automatic now and I wonder what I’ve lost of myself in the process. In my work (a very different field and one that I often love and think is important in society), the need to suppress one’s analytical inclinations feels particularly ironic. Reading about your workplace, and about the workplaces of some of the commenters, is like reading a blended nonfictional 1984/The Circle (Eggers).
    p.s. Good luck w/the move. Please do a post at some point about selling the house/buying another/moving. Seems like it happened quickly.

    • livafi says:

      >>is like reading a blended nonfictional 1984/The Circle (Eggers).
      I read The Circle right when it was published, not knowing anything about it other than the fact that Eggers wrote it and he’s a gifted writer. The first half of the book resonated particularly strongly; Mae’s story is the story of a new generation of workers. Poor, need job, will put up with anything to assimilate, and very soon “put up with” morphs into something very different — you end up needing the links to your employer, the constant affirmation and connection, even the demands, just as much as they seemingly need you. And it’s never, ever okay to indicate that you are anything less than 100% into your company — that anything else defines you. Mae ends up suppressing like a madmanwoman. (Like you, I viewed the second half as sort of an updated version of 1984… some of it is sure to be prophetic.) I didn’t intentionally create this post to reference that material but now that you mention it, I see the clear overlap. Eggers must have interviewed people like me prior to writing the book.
      Re: move. Yes, it was quick. We’re working on the endpoint now, but our house is under agreement.

  14. Cherry Lane says:

    Happy last day! Are you really going to make us wait an extra week to read all about it? Bummer.

  15. OnlyKetchup says:

    It’s D day! Very excited for you, hope it is going well.

  16. Reepekg says:

    Happy Last Day.

  17. G-dog says:

    You are officially FREE! Happy for you!

  18. MJH says:

    It’s weird, I’ve never met you are commented before, but as a random internet stranger I’m still excited for you! Congrats on the last day!

    Living Vicariously I guess 😉

  19. Frankies Girl says:

    Just wanted to pop in and say CONGRATULATIONS on your last day, and I do hope your packing/moving/transition isn’t too stressful! So very happy for you!! 😀

  20. Anon says:

    Hooray! Freedom at last! Congrats on your first day of freedom from work.

  21. SpreadsheetMan says:


    Another one got away….

  22. livingafi says:

    Thanks for all the well-wishing! I’m still in shock that it’s finally over after all of this time. It’s the first time in my life that it’s sunday night and I don’t have to go to work tomorrow — and tomorrow is not a vacation day, or a holiday, or a sickie, but instead my new life. So strange.

    And so good. 🙂

  23. Shaz says:

    Hi LAF,
    Congratulations! Also a big thank you for sharing your experiences and continuing your blog. Best of luck with your move. I look forward to reading more from you soon.

  24. Congratulations, LAF. A Sunday night and you’re untethered. As I write this, you’re having your third. Relief. Oh how I envy you.

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