I “retired” a week ago. I can’t say it feels any different yet. I think most people that retire are working one day and then the next day are not. Sort of like an off/on switch. You are either shining or you are not. My trek has been more like a rheostat, gradually dimming over the last few years. I have broadened my interests and activities as I have cut back my hours in medicine. Finding interests and activities has not been a problem. So it doesn’t feel different…yet.
My wife and assistant insisted that I have a farewell party. So on my “last day” (I worked the next day) we invited all friends and patients to the office for cake and champagne. I must admit it was nice saying good bye. As I thought what I might say, I was reminded of an NPR Fresh Air program I heard about Mary Gautier, a Louisiana singer/songwriter who had a pretty rough road to success. Her songs are personal and raw and she used the word “connect” to describe the goal of her art. And that was the word that I used to say good bye. I have been allowed over the years to connect at the deepest level with so many incredible people. Folks like me that are not famous or rich (well some of them are rich) have consistently reminded me what a wonder each of us is. I have been privileged to see people stripped of pretense and false fronts, showing me their joys, their fears, and their incredible courage. I have also worked in prisons, on the Texas-Mexico border, and in Africa and I know we do not emphasize our connection, our commonality if you will, enough. Underneath our fear, our anxiety and anger we are all so similar. Theology and original sin aside I find a genuine goodness in almost all of us. I have been given a unique view to see that and I believe it to be true. We are connected and it is those connections that makes our life together so meaningful.