I’d been invited to speak at a gathering of much more talented individuals than I, to share stories of how the person being celebrated had affected my life.
It began with the usual lingerings that lay in my memory, the idiosyncrasies, the little gesture that we all tend to notice about one another.
“Notice how he always to use touch the door twice before opening it”, crowd applauds.
They noticed it too.
I guess in that position one tries not to make eye contact, or at least I try not to. Try to stick to the stories, it gets too emotional to face the audience.
Then emerges a sense of familiarity, all these people are here because they care; this isn’t a “good-riddance” — it’s a heartfelt moment of consolation.
This is a moment where people have come along, to share the moments that have bound us through intertwining interests; and we’re happy to be here, to thank you for your support.
In that moment, I wondered to myself — is this what it feels like?
The end of the road, a career held for longer than I’ve lived life — not even sure what the future holds for me.
A person so dedicated they just decided this was it, never thought of moving on and held their position; whilst silently helping those along the way who deserved it.
This person wasn’t someone I worked for, neither was it someone I’d ever received a pay-check from; this was someone I went over to for advice, this person is my mentor.
And now the time had come for my mentor to realise it was time to leave the party, hand it down to a generation that follows into the footsteps.
Changes would be made, some for the better — we’d evolve, yet the imprints left behind will remain intact.
People will always value the presence that was generous and kind; a person who was more than just a projection of good leadership, the person was an epitome of it.
“He’d sit after hours, and I still have no idea why he’d stick around. I remember often poking fun at him, making remarks about how he was too afraid to go home. Only now do I realise, this was his home. It’s all he had, all he ever thought about.”
They mentioned how the next day after retirement is the worst, one feels lost and it’s unsettling.
Some tend to become bitter, wanting to still hold on to their legacy.
Some tend to fade away, forgotten of like disposable tea-cups.
Some tend to be remembered, not for their actions but their remarkable reputation.
The work ethic, at a time when that meant something.
“Retirement, is the realisation that some where along the way your job became your identity; and now you must find a new one. It’s the scene from Shawshank Redemption, being released from a prison into a world we longer recognise.”
I remarked how maybe that’s how George Smiley felt in John le Carré’s wonderfully articulated spy-novels.
George was a spy, not the James Bond type; something more dangerous, something lurking in the shadows, a common man at a first glance, forgotten of soon after making your acquaintance.
Is that why Soldier’s miss war?
Is that why we love sharing stories from our past, because that’s all that’s left of it.
I remarked, I felt lucky to have chosen a career where death is the only way one gets to retire.
Only to be pointed out, some times the creative juices run out; fear found its way into my spine — I don’t ever not want to feel creative.
I don’t ever not want to be able to create, or express myself.
In the end, left with a message of hope; from my dear mentor who taught me so much about life, taught me to be better, understand before reacting, compose myself, hold myself accountable, but most of all reminded me I was worthy in times that I didn’t think I was.
Valued my opinion, and felt I was reliable enough of being trusted with the most intricate of details.
This was the moment, I’d witness what it much feel like to hand over a throne; with eloquence and the spark of inspiration, “you’ll do great, I wish you the best with all my heart”.
This was the moment, I’d realise — my work is my identity, and I’d be nothing without it.
If lost, I’d only have memories to find solitude within myself.