Work colleagues and retirement, surely an oxymoron you say. No job, no office, no office Christmas lunch. True, except that if you’ve left your job only three months ago, you get invited – out of kindness or because they really miss you – to the Christmas office lunch. I don’t mind saying I’ve had this date in my diary for quite a while and I’ve noticed it creeping up, well I would there aren’t that many dates in my diary these days. But, even allowing for this sparsity, the date has stood out because I’ve been quite nervous about it.
I mean the first question is should I go? I will return to the answer to this question when I’ve laid the rest of the facts before you. The reason for the question about the doubt is obvious. I was worried what effect meeting all my ex colleagues (about 12 of them although I didn’t count them) would have on my struggling sense of well-being given I would be meeting all of them for the first time since my retirement.
Would I envy their continuing sense of structure and meaning, gifted (interesting choice of word on my part) to them by the world of work or would I look at them and think, thank God, I don’t do that any more. Would there be indifference on their part or, worse still, would they fracture my fragile new sense of self? I realise this all sounds very dramatic but there we are, that’s how it is for me. Back to the plot.
How would I handle the questions? Indeed would there be questions at all or would indifference to my fate mean I had become a social black hole, a non-person, somebody with nothing to offer conversationally? But, assuming questions were asked, how would I respond to the ‘how is it?’ ‘what are you doing now?’ questions? Would I dissolve into tears and beg to be taken back, it’s all been a dreadful mistake or would I smile / sneer / snigger and say something like – it’s great, should have done it years ago. Thing was I genuinely didn’t know how I would react. Not to that extreme of course at least, not externally, but my responses would be on the spectrum as we used to say professionally.
Would I achieve that balance between talking about myself (which I have little opportunity to do these days) and asking about them? Would I have anything to say about me that they might find interesting? There’s always the dogs of course – see later. If I ask about them and let the oh-so-casual, ‘so how is work?’ question creep in, what responses would I look for / want / need / crave? It’s not been the same since you left, your school’s miss you terribly. I must not ask for compliments, insouciant, is that the word, well, if it is, that’s what I would be.
Did I pull it off? I think so. I did find myself saying to some colleagues that mostly it was going well but I admitted I missed my schools. But that’s true so why pretend otherwise. I did admit I hadn’t filled that particular hole but continued to search. I think I managed to say this without whining in an unspoken way about give me my job back
Who would have thought a simple invitation to a work ‘do’ could cause such soul searching? I’m so glad it’s over and I got in and out without too much collateral damage. Before the ‘team’ arrived my pal (who retired at the same time as me) and I sat in the pub and discussed the ethics of this sort of event. Truth be told I probably would have turned down the invitation had he not told me he was going. Of course he only lives about 500 yards from the pub so perhaps he could hardly say no. But if he was going I felt I had little choice, and I’m not proud of my reasons here, to go. So there we were, two old gits, both in our own way slightly anxious / ambivalent about the day. We talked about how many of these events it was OK to attend without appearing needy? We reckoned, one, the one closest to your point of departure. So today is it then.
I don’t know whether it was the three course lunch or the one glass of white wine (I was driving and the police don’t understand the emotional strife that an event like day generates to use as an excuse for being pissed) or said emotional turmoil, but I was knackered when I got home and promptly fell asleep on the sofa. Not an easy day.
Incidentally, and off the record, there was one point when I held the attention of the team perhaps in the same way that I used to do. This time it was me telling how I jumped into the canal to save one of the puppies who had fallen in- another blog topic, it was quite scary – I was quite impressive, as, I like to think, I used to be but this time the focus was the dogs not the job. I feel that somebody is trying to tell me something but what is it?
There were no job offers for me to turn down. Incidentally my boss, the one mentioned in a previous blog that I had been rude to sat opposite to me. I was surprised she was there and even more surprised that she sat opposite me but I think that was just how it worked out, there was no scheming on her part to sit opposite me so she could quietly beg me to come back. And no secret offer contained within the Christmas card she unexpectedly gave me on the way out. Ah well, retirement it is then.