395 days

I am planning on retiring.  And this is my diary to countdown the days.

395 days until.

What is my final year going to look like?  So far I have put a lot of pressure on myself to leave my team in a good place, to achieve long sought goals. To teach and transition for a seamless exit.

I have been frustrated, and it’s an old issue. I say, “these are the resources I need to guarantee success,” and I am told, first that they agree, and then but…. or something akin to no, like, here are the hoops to jump through, or the cases to prove, and alternatives to explore. Or, I could just fail….

Truth be told, I never wanted to be an accountant. I wanted to make money, sure. Accounting is a good career. I recommend it for people who want financial independence. I wanted to move out of my parent’s house. I wanted to buy freedom for myself, eventually, with the money I made doing something that didn’t particularly have a lot of meaning to me.

I did move out of my parent’s house, but for the most part the sacrifices I made working, didn’t always feel like they got me what I had dreamed about.  I had a family, and I enjoyed that, but I could have had a family with less money.  I could have been more present for my family, if I was happier. Did I have money in the bank for the sacrifice I made? For many years I had debt. I eventually turned that around. But did I have things I wanted? What did I want besides time off? My feelings towards working waxed and waned. As a contractor I had some freedom, and at times worked flexible hours. At other times took months off, but only to return.

None of that matters now, because I am almost there. I am retiring, a little bit early, but not really. I’ll be 59 ½ when I retire, a magic number at which I can withdraw from retirement accounts without penalty.  Better than many, but not that early. As I struggle for a successful last year, it becomes obvious that the conflicts and challenges I have to navigate, are the same as I’ve always had. It feels, still, like I am responsible for successes that I am not given the authority or resources I think I need to achieve. For years I have said we need more people, more technology and for years it falls on deaf ears. I have complained that I will inevitably miss something. I’ve asked “how badly do I need to fuck up before someone listens when I say we are at risk.” I have argued that my team is too small to plan for succession, to cross train, to have the levels of review I think we should have.

So why do I think now, just because it is my final year, that suddenly my leaders will trust my opinion? I told my team that I hoped this last year would be my best.  I joked that as I delegate everything, to pass along the knowledge, I’ll finally become the manager I should have been all along, and maybe even start loving the job. It’s a joke, but not completely. Then, the other day, I complained to the manager under me that instead, I am stressed. I want to achieve the same goals I have not achieved these past 5 years. But I’m beginning to understand why I never did. The pressure I put on myself leads me to anger over conflicts I have with my leaders about how to get there. And why? Why should I care if they hire more people, or implement the right software. Why should I care if I can’t create out of excel a complicated, yet easy to understand tax planning tool. I’m good at modeling, but I am not a computer programmer, and the parameters, the needs, the wants, that come from above are incompatible with the simplicity and ease of understanding that I am charged (or charge myself) with achieving.

I do care.

But if they won’t give me what I need to get the job done, then I just get the job done that I can. And if they accuse me of dogging it, even if they are wrong, that’s not my problem. Once I’m gone, they can continue to blame me. I’m ok with that, I told them as much. Protect yourselves, I said. I don’t mind if they say it, but I don’t actually want them to believe it. All of the things I want to achieve before I go are for them. But I will not be the one that struggles if I can’t provide them.

Reminds me of the semester before I left Bard College, to ultimately study accounting at Hunter College. I was active in the student government, and I cared about the issues that we dealt with. My sense of fairness and logic drove me to care. This had been a big part of my college experience, it was the part I liked, and not why I was leaving. So, I was arguing a position for something, I don’t remember what, alongside my best friend, who was staying. The person we were arguing with, John Carroll was his name, said to me, “YOU’RE NOT EVEN GOING TO BE HERE!” 

And it stopped me in my tracks. Because he was right. I realized that he was right. I shouldn’t have a say. And I shouldn’t really have a say in this case either. Except for one thing.

When I first gave my notice, over a year in advance, it was because I didn’t want to leave my team hanging. I told them at the time, that I could leave earlier, but I didn’t want to abandon people. I told them, that if I stay, I want to see them preparing for my transition, because if I were to make the sacrifice, I didn’t want to be in the same position a year from now.  I didn’t want it to be for nothing. At that time they told me that 1) They could promote the person under me without me having to leave.  2) They could backfill the headcount while I was still here, to afford the team the resources such that I could pass along my tasks and 3) I could take all of my vacation – I have pandemic year vacation that has rolled over, so I have a lot. And that would make my last year less stressful, almost part time. But, as has been typical, now they tell me they can’t do 1) or 2 (though they can’t stop me from taking my vacation). 

So, I could leave earlier. My subordinates can all be promoted. And I won’t have to be frustrated by the lack of trust that I feel when I can’t get anyone to respect my judgement, born of experience, and hear me. But, in truth, I don’t want to leave just yet. My finances are about there, but I like the idea of letting the market rebound a bit more and make one more year of pay, and one more bonus and one more year of benefits. So, staying is not actually the sacrifice I said it might be. But I also don’t want this last year to be stressful. And I don’t want to complain and fight about resources they won’t get for my team, because, as John Carroll said, I’m not even going to be here. I shouldn’t really have a say as to what the team is like after I’m gone. I should just do what I can with the resources they allocate now, and the rest is going to be up to them.


One thought on “395 days

  1. Your entry brought to mind the movie About Schmidt starring Jack Nicholson. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you do. I appreciate what you’re going through as you count down the days until your retirement. I watched my husband go through a similar transition. He declared his intention to retire from the university where he was a full professor, top of his pay scale, and take the three-year package where he continued employed for three years, but only had to teach for one and-a-half years of it, or three semesters. He arranged his three semesters for the first year and-a-half, so that the last 18 months would be a paid vacation. Sure, he still had obligations to the institution, was still on committees and had to answer to his superiors, but he had no classes to teach. His last semester of teaching was the beginning of 2020, and we all know what happened then. He had to transition to teaching online, and so took the option of cutting the session short and submitting grades for work completed. (At the same time, several older professors who had planned to retire soon, but not just yet, decided it was time, as they had no desire to teach by Zoom.) During the transitional retirement period, my husband would have moments of sentimentality towards his job: he’d miss his students, miss teaching the courses he loved and being in the vital atmosphere of a university. Right down to the wire he waffled in his decision. Suddenly, January 1, 2022 rolled around and he was no longer employed by the university and collecting a pension. During that time I have not heard him once talk about missing his old job. He still has certain perks and privileges being a retired professor (like free parking and gym membership), but none of the downside. On top of that, no one seems to miss him. Well, not true. Occasionally a student will contact him and ask if he can study privately with him, and he usually says, thanks but no, I’m retired.

    When my father began teaching middle school as a young man, he wrote a date, impossibly far in the future, at the top of the blackboard in his beautiful handwriting. One day the inspector came in and asked the students what the significance of that date was. One answered, “That’s when Mr. Smith retires, sir.” My dad, in fact, retired six months earlier, the moment all the numbers added up correctly.

    When you retire, you can rest assured that you will be leaving a smoothly sailing ship, that you did your job of preparing them for your departure; or you may leave thinking that the department is in a shambles and they’re not prepared and it’s going to be awful. If everything you put in place to aid them with your exit is thrown out the window the moment you set your foot on the pavement, don’t worry about it. If you get frantic calls from former coworkers saying, “Andy! What should we do?” tell them, “Why are you calling me? I’m retired!”


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