The other day I was going through my electronic piling system, which is a lot like doing archaeology: if you want something, you go on a dig. As I dug down, each of the strata I rummaged through represented a different period in my recent history and I examined what I discovered with a mixture of amusement and nostalgia. There are old digital photos, some of them in the blurry 640 by 480 pixel resolution that was the state-of-the-art when digital cameras first appeared. There are databases, spreadsheets, documents of all kinds. In amongst them I found this draft of a letter of resignation:
So, here it is (Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun). I’ll give it to you short and sweet: I resign! Actually I don’t, I retire, which has one important difference: it’s reserved for old codgers like me who plan to escape the world of work and fade gracefully (or even disgracefully, one never knows one’s luck) into the sunset. Mere resignation, on the other hand, is for wage-serfs who’ll be moving on to another job where sooner or later they’ll wind up with their miserable noses back against the grindstone.
If you’re not one for reading long and rambling explanations you can safely stop reading now as I’ve said everything that’s necessary. If, however, you’re curious about my reasons for quitting now, read on. I promise not to be rude or to offend your delicate sensibilities as there really is no excuse for that sort of behaviour, even in these uncouth and lamentably uncivilised times.
Occasionally, throughout my working life, I’ve imagined this time coming and what it might be like. I have a very vivid imagination but none of my past imaginings have come close to the reality of it. I’ve resigned from plenty of jobs before, but this is the first time I’ve done it with no intention of taking up another one. Having made this decision, I’m filled with a feeling of lightness that tells me it’s the right one.
Having worked all my life, starting as a gofer and general dogsbody in a chrysanthemum nursery when I was 15 and graduating through supermarket shelf filling to more rewarding lines of employment, I view with some trepidation the prospect of ceasing to get up and go to work every day. Working has become a habit, but like so many habits this one isn’t necessarily healthy.
Working isn’t all bad, though. Sure there have been days - plenty of them! - when the thought of getting out of bed and going to work has filled me with deep dismay, but on the whole I’ve enjoyed my various careers.
Careers, plural. I’ve had five to date, or is it six? It’s not just the in-your-face, know-it-all spotty herberts of today who consider themselves to be mobile, upwardly or otherwise. Over the years I’ve kept an eye open for opportunities and I’ve moved to take advantage of them whenever it suited me. As a result I’ve had a richly varied working life, travelled the world, lived in some exotic places, met a lot of very interesting people and done some pretty cool things. And, best of all, if I had my time over again I wouldn’t change a damn’ thing. I’ve survived the experience relatively unscathed: I don’t have arthritis or symptoms of senility (yet), I still have all my teeth and although my hair isn’t the delicate shade of mouse that it once was, it hasn’t fallen out so I’m doing fairly well for one of my advancing years.
Now, though, I’ve reached a point where I find I just don’t want to do it any more. I’m tired, I’m a little bored, and I find my tolerance is not what it used to be for people whose values don’t mesh with my own. In my not inconsiderable experience, when one becomes aware that dissatisfaction and disaffection have set in, it’s time to move on before the situation deteriorates otherwise the result is deep unhappiness that’s just not going to end well.
It’s traditional at this point to articulate all the things about this organisation that have annoyed me, irritated me, outraged me or just plain pissed me off but on reflection, the appropriate time for all that is long since gone. There’s no point in offering feedback if it merely consists of complaints and invective. I have no intention of upending a bin full of my frustrations over you, since the only effect that would have is that you would remember me as a grumpy old man who hung on too long before finally being forced to admit that it was time to go.
It’s also traditional at this point to include some valedictory remarks but I’m not going to indulge myself with those either, because that runs the risk of my being remembered as a maudlin and rather pathetic old geezer who hung on too long, etc etc.
Despite assurances to the contrary, I know how you will remember me. For the six months following my departure you will blame me for everything that isn't perfect around here and after that you will not remember my name. I have no illusions about leaving any kind of legacy in an organisation such as this one has become.
Many who have walked this path before me have made their exit stage left leaving in their wake mobile numbers and email addresses and promises to stay in touch. I make no such promises. When I move on I don’t look back. I prefer to let go and remember with affection the good people I worked with and the great things we achieved together. But when it’s over, it’s over. There’s something I find particularly wretched about nostalgia and I have no intention of wallowing in it.
I won’t hang about, then. As the saying goes, when you gotta go, you gotta go, and I guess I gotta go before I really do turn into a grumpy old git.
Goodbye, good luck, and may your God - if you have one - go with you."
That, as I recall, gave me a lot of pleasure to write and even more pleasure to send. And I am pleased to report that five years later I still have not turned into a grumpy old git.