Medicare is in my future — as in, I need to sign up soon, very soon.
And, I’ve been sick with an intestinal infection that is, at this moment, a mystery.
And, my husband had a mini-stroke.
And, our 16-year-old dog died.
All of this has me contemplating life, aging, and death.
No, I am not melancholy or depressed or worried about dying.
I am simply considering practical problems that come when we reach a certain age.
And, realizing that I don’t want to live with the work stress I’ve known during all my adult life. Figuring out what to do with that knowledge is the challenge.
Do I quit working? No, we are not at a financial situation where that is feasible.
Do I slow down? Since I am an independent contractor and have clients, I can, in theory, simply say I am going into semi-retirement.
Which clients do I keep? Which do I let go?
Sounds easy but it truly isn’t. I’ve worked for these people/offices for decades. Even the ones that have been more difficult than rewarding are a big part of my life and I feel an obligation to them as a parent might with a teenager unprepared for adult life, although I probably shouldn’t and know they may not feel as yoked to me as I do to them. Still, I pause when I think about cutting any of them loose.
Then, I ponder training someone — if they can find anyone — to take my place. I left a client more than three years ago and didn’t completely stop working there until January of this year. His first hire was horrified at the amount and complexity of the work, leaving me to continue with the more difficult tasks. Thankfully, she quit and my next replacement was more capable to truly take my place. But, it took time — more than a year to train her in spite of capabilities, work ethic, and willing attitude.
I tried to quit another client four years ago. She begged me to stay by doubling my hourly fee. I stayed. Fortunately, she is now easing into retirement, meaning I have one less client/office to let go.
My biggest and busiest client, also the one I’ve worked for in one capacity or another for 36 years, is my chief concern. No one in the office can do what I do and knows what I know. Finding someone to attempt to take my place will be extremely difficult. You may say it’s not my problem but I feel it is — to a degree. Training someone to completely assume that job will take a minimum of a year — more likely, two.
Why am I writing all this and publishing it for others to read? Because aging is going to happen to everyone unless death comes first. Maybe you haven’t thought about some of the things that are now keeping me awake at night.
Emotionally, aging hasn’t been too rough on me. I always felt older than others my age and preferred the company of those older than me. Being an older person has a certain level of comfort and familiarity to it.
The details of aging are another matter. I didn’t consider all the little stuff, the decisions and plans and annoyances that come with arriving at a certain age.
I didn’t and don’t want to think about Part B and C and D of Medicare or how long to work before collecting social security. Or, how to let go of the career that has been a huge part of my identity for so long.
Not that I would be one of those bored retirees who watch soap operas and miss their jobs. I’d write and take photos and volunteer and try to make my corner of the world a better place.
Now, I just need to find a way to let go of my past, at least some of it, and embrace my future.
For the first time, I feel motivated to do that.
The time is right for making decisions.