Tag Archives: career decisions

Retirement got more real, but not real enough

I put in the paperwork to initiate a pre-retirement evaluation last week. For us, this is a first, formal step in the retirement process. It essentially alerts the human resources department as to when an employee is considering retirement. Allegedly, it also puts the wheels in motion to begin replacement. I know my position won’t be replaced, so I guess there is no need to be in a hurry.

That’s harsh — knowing that your position will no longer exist once you leave.

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Everything I’ve done to date for the retirement process has been informal: discussions with my supervisor, conversations with collaborating scientists, and establishing a timeframe for completing projects. All of it was just a flowy thought process up to this point. Do I really want to retire, or was I just throwing it out there to see how people would respond?

No one seemed surprised that I’m leaving over 10 years earlier than when most in the field decide to retire. Do others see that I’m burned out and ineffective and think that I should get out of the field? Do they sense that I’m phoning it in most of the time? Or are they feeling the same as I do and ultimately understand why I’m leaving now?

My supervisor said that the decision to retire was entirely up to me. He would support my retirement timeframe, whatever I end up deciding. Sounds nice and all, but if he wanted me to stay, he could offer some kind of incentive. Something like support in the form of staffing for me to continue my work. The same staffing that males in the workgroup already enjoy. No, that wasn’t on the table. I’m free to stay, but I have to continue to bring in all support to keep me going.

So….what’s the point then? I could do that on my own.

Many of my colleagues expressed their own fantasies of retirement when I brought up the topic. I can tell that many face similar levels of burnout and disillusionment with their own science careers. I suspect that our reasons for wanting to leave may differ though. My burnout stems from fighting a system that is ultimately stacked against women in the field. More so, as an older woman, I’m feeling more and more invisible. I’ve grown tired of screaming to be heard and be remembered. There is also a lack of control over my work and loss of meaning over what I do. It’s hard to fight the fight when you no longer feel that the work is valued. And, finally, I’m tired of putting my life on hold. No work-life integration has ever been possible with this job. It’s time to make me the priority in my own life.

My final goal is to complete two projects that have dragged on for several years. A little flush of funding to gather data, but not enough money to complete the analyses, has left the burden on me to finish them off. 

Colleagues are anxious to get the results but don’t have the resources to help out once the dollars were spent. I made commitments. I hope I can live up to them.

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I had planned to retire in December, but it looks like I may need to extend that by six months — which could mean as late as next May. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated delays in processing HR requests. The priority is now hiring for the summer rather than preparing people for retirement. Can I do another six months? Probably. It does give me more time to plan and develop the next stage. 

It seems like so very far off though. 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.