“Time is the currency of life”
Today is my last working day at the Company*; I will leave employment on 30 April 2020. That date marks the end of an almost 18-year career with the only employer I’ve had since graduating. It’s going to feel different no longer being a Company employee.
How did I come to this rather dramatic turning point in my life? That’s what I’d like to explain in the hope that it might help you reflect on your life.
Firstly, I want to thank you for the enjoyable moments we’ve shared; this is the main thing that will survive in my recollection of this period.
Being married to another Company employee; having lived abroad in Gabon for five years, during which two of our three children were born; having lived on Sakhalin for 4 years; having travelled to many interesting places; having worked on some interesting challenges with some interesting people are all remarkable aspects of my life that came about due to my employment at the Company.
In this way it is easy to think that one’s career is one’s life as it has touched so many aspects of it. And it is subsequently quite easy to believe that the Company is a higher purpose to which one has dedicated one’s life as if it’s an integral part of it. For me, as for many others, my employment with the Company is what has been the constant factor for the largest part of my adult life, even preceding my relationship with my spouse. No wonder that a rupture in that relationship is a significant event.
For me a turning point came when my mother died in 2013 at age 66, having been severely ill on and off for 13 years. It made me realise (slowly) that we don’t all achieve a pensionable age (mine currently stands at 68), let alone in good health.
After returning to the Netherlands in 2015 I lived through three reorganisations in about as many years. Although I think it is fair to say that I was usually considered to be a ‘good guy’, to me it was clear that it would only be a matter of time that I might be considered redundant too.
In a matter of years, the company that I at first saw as some sort of family, an undetachable part of my life, was reduced to a rational entity that procures resources to combine them for production and earn money. I was just one of the (disposable) resources.
With a sense of purpose gone and not being dependent on my job financially, I struggled to find a reason to stay. After having given the best years of life to the Company at age 41, why give my next best 18 years if it didn’t really seem worthwhile?
I have always had a keen interest in philosophy and politics or, in other words, in trying to understand life on Earth and trying to make it better. Would I be satisfied with my own life if I would stay in a seemingly comfortable, but not always inspiring job only to wake up one day at age 60-something and realise that I had not explored what I was most curious about and that now it was too late to change course? After all is said and done, so my wife often reminds me, people don’t regret what they did do; they regret what they did not do.
I’ve seen many colleagues in the last couple of years at age 50-something being given the boot. A friend of mine pointed out how many of those, typically after a 30+-year career in the Company, sit at home completely disoriented. With the Company out of their lives, what is their purpose in life? The penny dropped and I decided that I was not going to sit and wait till it happened to me, but instead exit at a time that would suit me. And change the course of my life when I still had the age to do so with less difficulty than I would have at age 50+.
Last September I started to pursue a master-degree in humanistics, while continuing to work 60%. One of the best decisions I’ve taken in my life as it rekindled my fire based on my life-long interests. Humanistics concerns itself with helping people find purpose in life and helping them thrive in the organisations they form part of and society in general, drawing on philosophy, psychology, sociology and the study of religions.
With this I’ve entered a new chapter of my life. I imagine myself entering a new landscape in unchartered territory. Like when I adventurously roamed through Wales and the Lake District by myself two years ago. Roaming through terrains that were new to me, where sometimes I needed to trod through bog and dirt, sometimes needed to wade through ice cold water, sometimes being lashed by rain. But doing so in the confidence that I could weather these challenges, knowing that I’d also encounter beauty and feel the sun on my face. And hoping that ultimately I’d be rewarded with a stunning view when I look back. I’m looking forward to my new adventure!
All the best to you and your family.
* As this letter is in the public domain I will refrain from explicitly identifying the Company by name.