I’m ensnared in a personal Twilight Zone of denial and isolation, anger, bargaining and depression, unable to get my head around acceptance. It isn’t real. Damn it, I’m not ready to deal with this. If only . . . . I internalize, withdraw from the ones to whom I should be turning for support.
Commonly accepted truisms have trickled down the millennia. It is what it is. Go with the flow. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. There’s always sunshine after a storm. It’s darkest before the dawn. Tomorrow is another day. Time heals all wounds. When one door closes, another opens. Life goes on. Move ahead without looking back.
A letter two weeks before Christmas informed me that the marketing management program at the technical school had been moved to a subset of business administration. That rendered my position as the marketing instructor unnecessary. I was RIF’d.
Been there, done that. My first feeling was stress reduction. My second was mulling over options, the chapter of my life.
Susan, my wife, involuntarily separated from her career five months earlier, was making some career decisions as well. We were again standing together in life’s woods where roads diverged.
Had a wonderfully relaxing, family oriented Christmas. Many “Honey do” projects, most on my personal bucket list in the procrastination basket too long, were undertaken and some were completed.
Résumé updated. Job searches initiated. Applications submitted. This wasn’t an income sortie. It was a forage for openings which were interesting, something new, where my training and experience could make an immediate contribution, in a new location after almost 24 years in Georgia.
That’s what you do in these circumstances. Get on with life. Collective wisdom says so.
The reality is that my life had been booted into a perfect storm, the combination of two strong undercurrents beyond my control.
The rejections were polite, if sent at all. Overqualified. Couldn’t afford you. Looking for someone with less experience. Do you clearly understand what this position is?
Because age isn’t just a number, after all.
But it always has been. To me. Ask anyone who knows me.
Twenty-two when I started college. So what? Four years in the military including a year in Vietnam provided maturity and life experiences. Priceless.
High school teaching credential and job at 28. So what? Understood, related well with the students. Grad school at 35. So what? Professional experience to contribute to the learning and personal maturity to fulfill the commitment.
Re-married at 36. So what? Susan’s almost a decade younger. Age difference a non-issue for either of us.
First child at 41. So what? Conscious decision. Financially stable. Less likely to be panicked by the unexpected. Susan would have two children to raise.
Second child at 48. So what? Susan now has raise three kids to raise.
Soccer referee at 50. So what? For 15 years, the kids’ legs were the same age. Mine got older every year. Finally sidelined by a foot injury.
In my mind, I’m still in my mid-20s. Termination is what it is. Look ahead, knock on doors ready, willing and able to open one.
Age discrimination. It’s a despicable phrase. Overt, it’s Illegal. Unintentional, inhuman, understandable and impossible to prove. The date of the undergraduate degree is on the résumé. The calculations are quick. As are estimations of longevity, short-term ROI, ability to “fit in.”
The first undercurrent: in the marketplace, I’m already out in the pasture.
Family and friends are caring, well-intentioned when they offer the “R” word: retirement. Social security. That’s what everyone they know who’s my age does. Years before the age I am now.
Doesn’t matter what your mind tells you. I’m reminded that, a dog were my chronological age, it would be 357 years old.
The second undercurrent: I’m not playing by the age rules.
I’ve entered a personal Twilight Zone. Not that old. Don’t make me think chronologically, damn it. I’m not through. Even Susan will tell you that I’m one of Pan’s Lost Boys who never grow up. Depression.
That’s when the grieving cycle began.
I’ve always followed Yogi Berra’s advice: when you come to the fork in the road in the woods where one road is less traveled by, take it. OK, he didn’t include the Robert Frost metaphor, but it fits.
This is a big fork in my life’s road. I’m taking it.
Semi-retirement. Re-launching my consulting and training company. The first policy: age is only a number. And I already know what a kid the boss can be at times.
Filing for social security.
Making a decision with Susan about which beach suits us best and how to work that around her career opportunities or vice versa.
Learning the lyrics to Paul Anka’s anthem, “My Way.”