I always knew there would be difficult parts of the retirement process:
1. Becoming selfish enough to make the decision in the first place
2. Developing a good-sounding rationalization to tell people
3. Convincing my wife who no longer falls for my rationalizations
4. Trying to know what to say when people congratulate me
But the real problem, it turns out, is going to be leaving my office in some kind of reasonable order for whoever follows me.
When I first came here, 13 years ago, the previous Director had left a gazillion files which I didn’t know what to do with. For months, I pestered everyone around me with questions. “What’s this? Do we need this? Why is there a confidential file that contains lunch menus?”
13 years later, I still have a couple of the previous Director’s files that make no sense to me but I’m afraid to throw them away.
My philosophy has always been to keep no paper in my office at all. Set up a filing system that someone else can manage and keep nothing. I tell everyone to never ever give me an original of anything. This is based on the fact that I know my professional abilities very well and realize I am capable of losing anything and everything in direct relation to how important it is.
So how, I am now asking myself, have I managed to fill a desk, two large bookcases, one small bookcase, and a credenza with a gazillion files and loose papers.
Of course, the vast majority of this is junk. Notes from leadership trainings that are 10 years old. Articles on addiction that I always planned to read sometime. Emails from when we first went paperless – LOL – and I still was addicted to printing everything.
Anything of any importance should have originals filed somewhere else, I tell myself.
I’m not sure I believe myself.
And books! What do I do with a Financial Management textbook from graduate school? I didn’t even like it when I first took the course! But throwing away a book seems sacrilegious. Not to mention it makes the trash can heavy.
And how do I know (without reading a gazillion pieces of paper) that there might not be a client’s name written somewhere, so I can’t just throw it out! I have to meticulously and mechanically take a ten foot pile of paper and slip it ten or twenty sheets at a time into the narrow slot in the HIPAA confidentiality burn bin. At least it is better than clogging a shredder.
And what needs to be saved for the poor soul that inherits my office?
Since I have almost always brought my lunch and eaten at my desk, I don’t even have any menus!
I still have a month and a half to go. It will take every waking moment to sort through this paperwork avalanche.
So I pick up another pile of papers and start to read them. They are the minutes of a meeting from 2002 which carefully document a lengthy discussion about whether we should change the date and time of the next meeting.
Your tax dollars at work.