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Friday, April 27, 2012

Falling Up

Falling Up

I tripped on my shoelace
And I fell up –
Up to the rooftops.
Up over the town.
Up past the treetops.
Up over the mountains.
Up where the colors
Blend into the sounds
But it got me so dizzy
When I looked around,
I got sick to my stomach
And I threw down.

Carol’s story of her fall last week made me recall this poem by Shel Silverstein.  A co-worker gave me his book “Falling Up” as I left for a new job.  The poem has come to symbolize my career for me. I’ve had 10 jobs at 8 companies in my career, and in the past year I’ve started to think a lot about what’s next.  Mostly I think about life after work, wondering how I will spend my time when I am unfettered by the golden handcuffs. 

I am a boomer, several years away from official retirement age, but close enough to plan. It occurred to me that you rarely see the gold watch exits these days. Sometimes companies nudge 60ish workers with early retirement packages to get them off the books, but plain vanilla layoffs (aka: “position eliminations”) are more the norm.  Every time a co-worker loses a job, I am relieved that the grim reaper has spared me, but I’m secretly jealous too. 

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my work in employee development. I have autonomy, I work with good people, I am fairly paid, and best of all, my co-workers appreciate what I do.  But after 30+ years, the theater of the corporation (pointy-haired bosses, restructuring, doing more with less) saps my energy more and more. I fantasize about a sabbatical.

So I dream about the possibilities, almost like when I have a ticket in a mega millions lottery.  What could I do with an extra 50 hours a week?  Write my novel?  Get in shape?  Work on the presidential campaign?  I really would like to spend more time with my husband who has been retired our whole marriage of 15 years.

This sounds pretty good for a few months, but for the next 20+ years?  (And let’s face it, my 401k is not even close to what the experts say I need to retire.) Suddenly, the creativity, the people and the perqs of my current job look pretty good.  (Look where my job is taking me in May.)  

Like Carol, I had a bad fall myself recently. I was looking ahead to where I was going when I stumbled off an unseen curb sprawling to the pavement.  “Watch where you’re going,” I heard my inner critic say as I evaluated the damages to my foot.  (It still hurts six weeks later.)

So the lesson I take from my fall (and from Shel) is that looking ahead is good, but being truly engaged in your “right now” might be a better choice.  I think I’ll stay put for a while and see where it takes me.

Anybody else feeling the urge to change?  What’s your story?



  1. Edie EichertApril 27, 2012

    Thanks for sharing,Chris. I've enjoyed reading all of the blogs posted here and this one definitely hits home for me. While I'd like to think retirement is around the corner, it's hard to imagine every really being able to retire. And, like many of us, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up!

    1. I think you're probably right about retirement being a thing of the past for next generations. I expect people will find ways to stay engaged in some vocation that pays. I keep my eyes open for any and all possibilities.

    2. I agree. I do not think of retirement as not working at all, but as doing work I love for a lot less hours

  2. Now that my bruises are fading, it feels a bit like I fell up, because mostly what I feel about falling is gratitude that I did not get hurt worse, was reminded that helping builds friendships, and that we got 2 blogs out of it :)

    1. Maybe we should make it a rule on the blog that the next writer has to take a word, phrase or idea from the prior person to create a new theme in the post. Could be an interesting challenge for writers. Glad your bruises are fading to yellow.

    2. Ah, blog as writing prompt. When all else fails can we pick a conjuction? :)

  3. Chris, great post. I'm jealous that you'll be in south Africa! I find the more I focus on the present, the more peaceful I am. Be it at Machu Picchu or sick at home, the present always has gifts. Though sometimes easier to see than others. .