Six Months

Emerging
Great Bear Rain Forest, British Columbia

In just under six months, I’m retiring from the practice of law at the tender age of fifty-six. Although I don’t have much longer to go, I feel it will be some time before I emerge from the current fog in which I am enveloped. I still go to the office most days, but because we are winding up our practice, there’s not a whole lot of work to be done. I have little motivation to do busy work. There’s not much point.

My work days look like this:

I awaken just before sunrise, without an alarm. The four cats make enough of a pre-dawn commotion that an alarm is unnecessary. I putter around my home, scooping cat boxes, washing and refilling dishes, vacuuming up scattered litter. I dress in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, apply minimal makeup, powder and lipstick, and slick back my pixie haircut. (I got my hair cut into a short pixie just before I went to Botswana in May of 2018.) Taking care of the felines requires triple the time it takes for my morning grooming, these days.

Somewhere around 10:30 a.m., I drive to the office. My commute is short, twenty minutes, since most people have inched their way down Mopac long before I’ve left my home. Back in the day when I thought it important to arrive at the office long before lunch, the drive could take close to forty-five minutes. Upon arrival, I answer emails, when there are emails to answer. I check my paper inbox; generally empty. I check the stock market, Facebook, and Twitter, all of which I’ve already done multiple times, before I’ve left home; sometimes before I’ve even gotten out of bed. I update my countdowns on my whiteboard: (1) the number of days remaining until the firm is required to provide me with my ninety-day notice (presently, ninety-one days); and (2) the number of days until December 31, 2019, my last day of employment with the firm (presently, 181 days). If it’s a Friday, I take down a post-it flag from the row of flags I hung inside my cabinet door over three years ago; one flag for each week remaining until early retirement. Once these tasks are completed, I take my lunch out of my bag, and eat it at my desk. (One must be particularly mindful of frugality when planning to early retire as a single, child free, woman.)

After lunch, I walk to my assistant’s office for a chat. Because Mitch and I have little work, Lola, too, has little work. Lola came over with Mitch and me in the 2011 merger. She was as reluctant as I to join BigLaw and intends to leave the firm by the time Mitch and I go. I helped her put together a resume, and ask her how the job search is going. So far, she’s done quite a bit of networking, but has yet to actually apply for a new position. I expect we’re both suffering from burnout.

Although I am intent on walking away from the practice of law, I do have an obligation to complete service on a state bar committee. Presently, I am chair-elect for the 2019-2020 bar year, and will ascend to chairwomanship for the 2020-2021 bar year. Because most people aspire to the post for purposes of resume window dressing, I feel I need to at least give the appearance of caring about the actual practice of law. Why waste that fancy council title on someone who isn’t going to use it to impress her colleagues and clients? So I’ll feign shingle-hanging, or contract work for the next couple of years. I could resign the post, but I prefer to keep my foot in the law-office door, in case I change my mind about walking away from the practice, entirely. What if the market tanks? Lola agrees this hedge is smart.

After my chat with Lola, I go back to my office and update my spreadsheets: (1) the daily total in my investment accounts, which automatically computes the daily gain or loss; (2) my budget, showing any spending in each discrete category since my last update; and (3) my bank ledger, adding any cash withdrawals or deposits. After I update my spreadsheets, I check the Washington Post site, following which, I meander around the internet, reading anything of interest. Lola usually pops in for another chat until we hear Mitch’s chair squeak, usually just after 3:30, signaling he is preparing to leave for the day. I then pack up my lunch things, my water bottle, my coffee Yeti, and tear off the Bird of the Day on my calendar. I exit out the back door and head home before traffic.

Some days, like today, I don’t go to the office. I don’t make excuses (appointment, illness, sick cat); I just don’t show up. Mitch, on occasion, does the same. Some days, he says he’s working from home, although we both know there is no work being done, which is why I don’t bother to say as much when I don’t show up. When he does come in, he spends most of his time working on his genealogy program, or he closes his door, puts his feet up on his credenza, and takes a nap. When I don’t show up, he doesn’t ask my assistant where I am, just as when he doesn’t show up, I merely shrug and get back to my internet surfing and spreadsheet updating.

I have six more months of this ghostly existence. Once I receive my official ninety-day notice from the firm, I likely will not show up at the office more than once a week. I’ll be very busy, you see, doing whatever it is one does when they’re about to leave a job they’ve had for fifteen years, a career they’ve had for twenty-five; busy doing whatever it is one does as they prepare to emerge from that fog.

21 comments

  • I’m so glad to see a new post from you. Thank you for keeping us updated. I found this community just a year ago, started my career 1.5 years ago, and I am already day-dreaming about my last mandatory work days. I love your writing. I’m curious – how exactly do you feel about these week days where you don’t work? You seem to feel nonchalant at this point.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Ani. Since you are already dreaming of an exit, you’ll be motivated to begin saving early. I didn’t catch on until much later, but I’ve made it.

      The week days I’m not working don’t feel like how I think actual retirement days will feel. They feel more like sick days. Instead of doing something with the freedom, I’m hunkering down a bit. I expect that will change once I’m truly out the door. So far as my employer, the man usually in charge, Mitch, is retiring at year-end and has checked out as well. So I feel little pressure to show a lot of face time. I’m getting what work that needs doing, done; no more, no less. It’s odd how easily my driven self has relaxed.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I was going to ask about your countdown calendar, and how you are marking off the days. My question has been answered.

    Retiring on your own terms, that’s the way to go. My wife Laurie would like to retire in a couple of years, but still loves being trauma surgeon. Most surgeons retire early due to a bad back or their fingers becoming less nimble from repetitive motion. Fortunately, Laurie does not have a bad back or her fingers seizing up. She thinks she will hang up her surgeon responsibilities and move forward as a consulting physician.

    I would say, “Don’t work too hard.” But, it seems you got that covered too.

    Don’t work too hard. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am marking off the days in so many ways: (1) the weekly post-it flags, which I’ve been doing for over three years, (2) the countdown app, (3) the white board countdown, (4) the Bird-A-Day calendar-page removal.

      If I still loved what I do, like your wife, I’d likely find somewhere else to do it. You never know; I could change my mind after a bit of a break. Laurie is lucky she physically is able to continue doing what she loves.

      I will try to relax. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Like

  • Sounds stimulating. Lol
    Maybe you should write a romance novel!

    I wish I was a good at tracking my money as you. Itโ€™s a mental block.

    I also canโ€™t quite start my retirement countdown. I have 8 more years to 55…

    Have a good day!
    Anne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anne, I’m so bored! I should write some sort of longer work, which is on the agenda.

      Money in toto used to be a mental block for me. I had to get past it when I looked after my mother’s finances, which is when I got serious about my own finances. Once I put my mind to learning about saving and investing, I saw how simple it can be. I still have some bad spending habits that I have to tamp down, but I have come a long way.

      Eight more years will fly by. Enjoy the voyage, Anne!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I should really start.
        My divorce is finalizing and having one income is different.
        I suppose I need to take a few hours a week to look at this!

        Like

  • Yea and Cheers! “prepare to emerge from that fog.” – you don’t know how true that mind numbing fog is. Not much longer (wise to do that hedge just a bit the oddest good things happen unexpectedly – good to keep the toolbox at hand.)
    Float and be well!

    Like

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