Thursday, February 28, 2013

Way to go! Pope

If anyone is setting an example of how to retire and still feel good about himself,  it's Pope Benedict XVI.
Unlike most of us leaving a job --  who feel we have lost our identity along with our ID badge  -- the Pope gets to keep a lot of the trappings of his office.
Way to go!
He's still got a big title -- indeed, a unique one -- "emeritus pope." He'll still be called "Your Holiness." He still gets to wear the papal white cassock instead of reverting to a cleric's basic black.
And, get this, he gets to keep his secretary,  Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, even though he has to share him with the new pope. Not to mention digs in the Vatican, with, as one journalist put it "a lovely view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica."
Is that continuity or what?
Leaving a job at a high point is also critical to how you feel about yourself afterward, and Pope Benedict did it in style  yesterday, cheered on by about 150,000 people crying,  "Grazie," thank you.
Imagine anyone thanking you for all your years of hard work as you walk out the door.
I tried to make my own exit smoother by taking a buyout, rather than hanging around waiting for a possible cudgel to fall. (Thank you, friends, who urged me to do it that way!) And I get to still  see my colleagues because I keep on going to a yoga class held at the office. Though I usually just slip in and out, it's nice to feel a connection to my three-decade career.
Still, the Pope has work to do. As Marjory Zoet Bankson says in her uplifting book, Creative Aging:
"The search for identity is not limited to young adulthood. Each time we make a major shift, we revisit these early identity questions. Now, as we age, many of us are living beyond the definition of a career. Our new questions are: 'Who am I without a title, a parking space, a regular paycheck? Who am I now that my wife is disappearing into the fog of dementia? Now that my body is changing? Now that my partner has died?"  Leaving a job, the "task of release," she says, "involves making peace with what has or has not been accomplished. We need to acknowledge that the time and opportunity for making a difference in the world through our work will never be repeated in exactly the same way."

How about you? What was your exit like? How did it make you feel? What's your identity now? Want to vent? or share?  Email me at to share your story.

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