Dead Man Walkin!
About six weeks ago I transitioned to part time at my job. Not 32 hours a week, not 24, but I went down to 20. I’ve been FI for quite a while now, but I frankly don’t have the cajones to fully retire and leave my job. I’ve been there for 22 years, I have tons of great colleagues and friends, and great benefits. And mainly I need to keep my healthcare plan, especially since no one can predict what will happen politically in that arena in the coming years, much less the coming weeks. But I was burnt and I hated my last position as Director of a department of over 60 people. I’ve come to realize I’m just not a great manager since my heart isn’t in it. Self-realization is wonderful when it comes, even if you don’t like the results.
So I bought some of my freedom back.
I’m still early on in this semi-retirement, and it’s been a fascinating experiment. I’ve been working two 10-hour days per week, with the other five off. Basically it’s like a normal work-week schedule in reverse. In sum, it rocks. After working full time for over 26 years straight, being home and not on PTO status feels weird and dirty all at the same time. I don’t miss the bullshit at work and I’m starting new things, like this blog. But even though I’m mostly loving it there is a certain part of me that is hesitant. I was a Director, I worked my ass off for 22 years, stayed late when others left, busted my ass, and got ahead at a relatively young age. I didn’t do it to get rank or status, I did it because I loved the mission of my job. I was contributing, I had the ideas, I was a player. But at the same time I knew I was not a ladder-climber. My attitude was, as long as I’m intellectually stimulated and am contributing, I’m happy. I gave up promotions twice to do a cooler job. That was me.
But why the hesitation?
One of my favorite blogs is Our Next Life. Actually I think it’s my favorite. Tanja just has a great way of expressing these squishy-type things about FIRE in her writing. This post actually was one of my favorites. Now I never considered myself a gold-star seeker, I received numerous awards in my career that I purposely skipped out on the ceremony for. So I’m not big on the external motivating factors, but the internal ones – the ones Tanja calls “self-drive self worth”, well that might be another story. Or at least I’m finding that out now. There is some sort of weird void in my brain already in this semi-retirement. That part I don’t like.
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Meetings! (until we do)
So working 2 days a week is great right? Mostly yes, sprinkled with some no. Typical conversation I now have with colleagues over an issue
Me: Hey I was catching up on email and I saw that the blah-blah meeting went well
Colleague: Ha, well yeah until so-and-so derailed the whole project the day after by missing his deadline.
Me: Oh, I didn’t see that.
Colleague: Well, yeah, sure. You were out right? Sure. (with a look that combines disgust and jealousy)
Me: Wow, that sucks. Well, what can I do to help get it back on track?
Colleague: We’re having a meeting Thursday to go over options, can you come?
Me: Well, I won’t be in
Colleague: (stares, gets ready to spit in my face but thinks twice… wanders away)
So yeah. In sum, my irrelevance grows every day.
Part of me is okay with that, since I know this semi-retirement is the first step to fully getting out. But part of me thinks that in some ways, doing a full “screw you guys, I’m going home” (please use voice of Cartman..) retirement like Tanja from Our Next Life would have advantages. Some aspects of the semi-retirement have a ‘walking dead’ aspect to them. My colleagues now know that I’m not really serious about my career anymore. As someone who has always prided himself on not caring too much what others think, I’m finding that maybe I care more than I thought.
Damn self discovery.
But nothing is perfect, not even missing bullshit meetings. Because the effect is that I’m slowly becoming a work-zombie. A semi-dead man walking.
Even the people who don’t visibly want to spit on me seem to be treating me a bit differently. It’s almost as if they’re saying to themselves “yeah, I could tell you about that meeting but I know you really don’t give two shits”. To some of them, I’m kind of a dead man walkin’. Of course I’m being a bit over-dramatic here in the name of attempted humor, it really isn’t that bad. But it’s definitely different, and bit uncomfortable sometimes. But hey, I had the last two days off and I got some serious miles in on my bike, so life is goooooood!
I’d love to hear from you. Have any of you gone part-time and had similar experiences? Chime in!