Notice anything different about my self-description? It’s the very first word.
I had a pair of high-profile work projects upon return from a three-week vacation in Scandinavia last May. The first was a presentation to the University of California’s annual Risk Summit on how to manage an international crisis. I led the campus team that responded to July 2016 terrorist attacks in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Nice, France, each of which killed one of our students. I’m not exaggerating much when I say our presentation (which I crafted) was so powerful it left audience members in tears.
The other project was pulling together a campus policy — perhaps a template for universities across the country — on how to deal with disruptive events like Milo Yiannopoulos’s February 2017 speaking engagement. I had tons of help from legal, law enforcement, and student affairs experts, but ultimately I was the one writing and editing the policy.
From a professional perspective, these projects should have excited me. But deep down, all I felt was meh.
Meanwhile, the daily grind of the job wore me down. The vacation hadn’t refreshed me. All it did was make me wonder why I put up with all the difficult people my job forced me to face.
And then in August, our chief campus counsel, Chris Patti, was killed in a bicycle accident. Chris was slightly younger than me. My Cousin Judy was also younger than me. In July she learned her cancer diagnosis was terminal. She struggled bravely into November before succumbing — the first of my cousins to pass.
These were all messages: you’re still healthy, you still have most of your mind (the memory is starting to slip), you only have so much life left, and you’re not happy where you are. Isn’t it time for a change?
Well, that depended. I didn’t want to start a new job. Could I afford to retire, though? The Fabulous Wife and I met with a terrific financial consultant, who confirmed that all our years of paying off debt, spending less than we earned, and investing conservatively had given us the financial room to quit our jobs and get by (barring personal or national calamity, of course).
So in January I told my boss my last day would be April 6.
I kept it quiet because of another word in my self-description: introvert. I can be out front as long as I’m not the focus of attention. So, for instance, I handled that presentation about the terrorist attacks without a shred of anxiety. But when it’s about me — congratulations Andy, what are your plans Andy, taking any long trips Andy, who’s going to take over after you’re gone Andy— I sweat through my shirt. I waited until a week before my departure to tell everyone. That led to a bit of speculation that I’d done something horribly wrong and was leaving before I got fired. But no, that was just psychological self-preservation.
So it’s the first week of the rest of my life! I have a plan to fill the time, which I call my four R’s: running, reading, ruminating, and writing. But will I actually adhere to it? If so, will it be as fulfilling as I expect, or will depression, like a virus lurking in the bloodstream, take the moment to strike?
It may be a while before I find out. In one of those ironies, I got a jury duty notice for April 16. The court system just can’t quit me! With my luck, I’ll wind up in a six-month trial.