WASHINGTON, DC (Aug, 11, 2016) - I love my job, but Friday will be my last day. I’m not leaving for another job opportunity, and I’m not being laid off. I turned 42 last week, but I’ve decided to retire from the working world.
I can hear your response now, as I’ve heard it from colleagues and friends already: “it must be nice to have a trust fund!” or “did you win the lottery?” But the fact is my “retirement” is going to last for just one year. My wife and I have made a plan to travel the world, and to come back to Washington, D.C. in a year to rejoin the full-time working world. We’re moving one year of our retirement up, and will add a year or more onto the end of our careers as a result, before our “real” retirement.
Why am I taking the route of a pro boxer – retiring now and un-retiring later? Simply put, because nothing is guaranteed in life.
Two years ago, my father-in-law was six months from his retirement. He had his wife of 30-plus years had everything planned out. They had downsized to a beautiful villa in southern California, where he planned to spend his time enjoying the weather, leisurely rounds of golf, their friends, their children and their soon-to-be first grandchild. A cancer diagnosis interrupted all that. He passed away three weeks later. His life spent bringing kindness and humor to all around him is an example of how I want to live mine. But his death was a stark reminder to my wife and I that time isn’t something you can always bank for withdrawals later.
My good friend Nick has taught me to espouse what he’d call a “carpe occasio” lifestyle – trying to “seize the moment” and appreciate all the beauty and joy that life has to offer. Nick never missed an opportunity to spend time with friends and family. He traveled whenever he could, and was in Sri Lanka when a heart attack took him away from us all much too soon. Nick was just 34.
I fully realize that these stories aren’t the norm, and the truth is that this decision was just as much about a plateau in my and wife’s careers as it is about living for today. With little opportunity for growth and no child-raising responsibilities, we felt like the time was either now – or 20 years from now – to take this trip we’d been dreaming about. We chose now.
Life is a balance of doing what we want, and doing what we must. My wife and I are using what we thought would be a down payment on a home to make this possible. I recognize that while this will be a fantastic experience, it will also require some trade-offs – to our family bottom line and to my potential career advancement. I also realize that I’m incredibly fortunate to even have the opportunity to choose this road less traveled.
When I return to Washington in about a year, I’ll go back to work (by leaning on my contacts – and LinkedIn – to help me find my next job). I’m sure I will have a more unique learning experience over that year than if I’d stayed, and I’ll have new perspectives and experiences to help influence my counsel to future clients. One thing I think I’ll have learned is that concepts like career and retirement can sometimes exist outside our traditional definitions. It may be hard to believe, but I’m actually looking forward to my next “first day of work,” because I know I’ll be taking with me all the memories and lessons that the next year has to offer.