By Johann Coetzee
Wednesday arrived with the promise of late afternoon rains, a hint of early morning sunshine and some cumulous clouds already building up from the east. I lingered for a while in bed, contemplating the beauty of this day and the consistency of creation.
This also happened to be the last day of my official career.
On this day my diary was filled with appointments. I had to counsel some retrenched executives for trauma and hopelessness. A three-hour session followed with the CEO of an international company to define and structure incisive organisation renewal interventions. A late afternoon presentation to a property development co followed, and reflecting on work-life-balance based on my book ‘It’s About Time’.
Driving home, I realised that there was no corporate farewell planned, nor any celebratory send-offs. I possess no equity which I can vest, nor accumulated leave pay-out or pension or provident fund transfers. I have been self-employed for 35 years. I drove home, said farewell to my career, and was embraced by my wife and inspired by phone calls from my children. The following emotions and convictions overwhelmed me:
- I am absolutely convinced that I do not want to die with my boots on. I elect to die with my boots off, bare feet, yes with those old rugby broeks on, and my preferred t-shirt which I wear to the beach and even sleep in.
- I fully and unconditionally accept the fact that I am not elegant nor attractive forever, nor universally. There is a simmering obsolescence within all of us, and it is wise to step away timeously and disappear. After all, there are far smarter youngsters than yourself, waiting for your vacancy to open and to provide an even better service.
- I have fully accepted the fact that I am not important; I am history and should switch off whatever ego may be left.
- I fully accept that as I engage in new variety, options, discovery and commitment, my call should be to serve and service those people whom I missed, and now to invest time and kind into advancing their quality of life.
- I am now abundantly excited about that mystical condition called Freedom, discretionary options and impulsive decision-making.
- I even experienced a sense of pride in the fact that I fired myself, and now choose to be unemployed, and even unemployable.
- I am very ready to engage in a joint venture with my wife, where the only equity is sharing and enjoying.
I am now an apprentice at the age of 68 in this exciting phase of new discoveries, engaging unfinished business and acquiring new insights and skills. It is a wonderful sensation to discover, and now know, that I do not have to prove anything, but improve much. Busyness dilutes quality and always reveals itself in a form of panic and hurriedness. Yes, it’s about time to TAKE time, linger in the contemplation of options, and reduce speed in the pursuit of new objectives.
I can never sleep late, but I will learn to sleep later.
I am not going to join the gym, appoint a personal trainer, join a club, nor purchase frivolous global tours. I just want to discover my home first and reconnect those who grew up in it. I have a need to revisit my dear friends on the shelves of my library, which I neglected over the years. I want to read more leisurely, study less prescriptively and record the narratives and messages which I believe others could benefit from. I want to move from behind my desk to in front of that workstation, sit in a wing-back chair with my feet up, and slowly page through magazines.
I have decided that I am not going to save myself into poverty and so deny myself the good life now. I shall spend myself into prosperity now and employ the fruits of my labour for enjoyment and even a little bit of extravagance where appropriate. I am not going to impoverish the sensation of today by excessively providing for tomorrow. I will not fear affordability and provision. I will banish any sense and act of stoic conservatism, and will commit to an expansive life and exploratory living. I am also excited about this next phase of non-prescriptive engagement, in diversity and unknown challenges, opportunities and variety which I am very willing and ready to discover.
As I approached the Ultra City on the N1 at Midrand, I decided to turn-in, treat myself to a celebratory breakfast, which I had never done in my life. I did reflect somewhat, and allowed a tinge of emotion as I closed a couple of files finally. A few fresh perspectives arose, inspired by two poached eggs and a croissant.
There, I wrote this farewell speech for myself: On My Own!