Thursday, June 29, 2006

Journal: Getting out of the office

After taking two weeks of vacation, my office looks a lot less cramped, a lot less disorganized, despite the stacks of summer projects occupying prime real estate on my desk. My desk chair seems more comfortable and my boss seems unusually competent. Funny how that works. One can almost imagine that my job is a career, that I am a professional, diligently working to advance the interests of my clients, that one day the lemon poppy seed sheet cake at the retirement party will have my name on it.

But today, the lemon poppy seed sheet cake bears the name of a coworker who has been here for almost 18 years, who is beloved by all, and whose eyes tear up when a colleague speaks. Hers is a graceful exit, and her retirement will be filled with gardening and grandchildren.

I have a 401K, an IRA, and even put some money in a targeted retirement fund that assumes I will continue working until 2035, when I'm 65. I like to diddle with calculations that predict the amount of money I'll need to retire and the amount I'll actually have. But always in the back of my mind is the likelihood that my career will not end with a lemon poppy seed sheet cake or misty-eyed tributes. Always in the back of my mind is the chance that MS will decide when my career ends, that exhaustion or absentmindedness will lead to an unpleasant, cakeless 'retirement' well before 2035.

Fortunately, two weeks of vacation gives a person a chance to sleep late, to forget about illness (and forget a Rebif shot), and daydream of a cakeful future.

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