I retired 11 months ago. I never understood those who held on into their 70s because they didn't know what they'd do without their job. I never had a problem visualizing that - work was getting in the way of my real life.
There was a serious background issue with that - by the time I retired I hated my job. Every minute of it. When I started 35 years before, we had been the exact opposite of a stereotypical government office, and it had been an agency that went full bore and merrily in opposition from the moment of its inception in 1807. The mission was our driving force, and we were allowed free reign to accomplish it. Sometimes we flew under the "don't get caught" umbrella, true, but that just drove us on. We solved computer problems that had never been solved before. We built whatever we couldn't buy in order to accomplish the task. We carried equipment up mountains, worked in the middle of the night if that was what was required, cussed computers in the early days of computer processing. We were a family. And we were proud.
And then, somewhere along the way, we started sliding into bureaucracy. We ended up with a director who is not a leader, just a wonk. Who then started surrounding herself with wonks in management positions. And the focus went from the mission to crossed "t"s and dotted "i"s. The director allowed the deputies to treat staff with appalling disrespect. By the time I left, the focus seemd less on the mission, but on attitudes that put into place the requirement that we sign in and out on three separate forms each day - one digital and two paper. Sounds like a small thing, I know. But that reflected an attitude that drove decades of collective institutional memory out the door in about 3 year's time as a lot of us threw up our hands and gave up. We were too old and too aware of the agency's amazing history to put up with its descent into stereotype. We had worked too hard, seen too many great things done. And we tended to be disinclined to be treated like naughty children who could only be contained by threats and verbal smacks.
Anyway. When I left I was miserable and did not let the door hit me in the behind. I had zero regrets about retiring.
The one tie I kept was my bank account at the credit union in the office complex. I've been able to do everything online, so that hasn't been a problem, and it seemed like too much trouble to change everything over to a bank up here. Except I got a check recently that was more than they allow you to deposit through their mobile banking app. So I put together a loop of errands and headed down to the old office in the big city.
The closer I got the worse I felt. I drove the same route, parked in the same garage. Walked the same streets to get there. And by the time I got there I was in a full-blown panic attack. Sweating palms, heart racing, a sense of not getting enough oxygen. I kept telling myself "It's not like they're going to come out and drag you back into the office." But that didn't work. It only took me a total of about 20 minutes between the time I left my SUV and the time I got back to it but by the time I got out of the credit union office I felt like throwing up. It didn't start to get better until I was well on my way back towards home.
Not rational. And a pretty clear indication of what a bad situation can do to you physically even when you aren't aware of how it's working on you. I knew I was unhappy. I said I hated my job and that I had to retire or I'd end up in jail for throwing some bureaucrat out of an 8th floor window. I just didn't realize how truly ferocious my feelings about it were until this week.