Landmarking the 60 Blog

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When someone treats you like an option, help them narrow their choices by removing yourself from the equation.  It’s that simple.

It’s been a year since I officially bid farewell to my prior employer.  I’d been there fourteen years and had no reason to assume I wouldn’t retire from there.  The managing partner and I started working together over 30 years ago.  I was a new legal secretary in California and he was a second-year associate.  We worked at several law firms together until he opened his own practice in 2002.  I was the go-to person.  I was employee number two.  (Employee number one had a last name starting with “V” and, therefore, beat me!)  As the saying goes, “I knew where the bodies were buried.”  The history, the people, the good, the bad, the stuff that mattered.

Then one day last June, I realized I had had enough.  I just couldn’t work there any more.  I took a stress leave of absence, went through group and individual counseling, increased my medication dosage, and learned useful meditation and mindfulness techniques.

Last September, at the end of my leave, I officially gave notice to my boss in-person and we parted ways.  It was bittersweet and I went through a period of grieving.  My ex-coworkers and ex-bosses perhaps also felt a sense of loss, making the same mental gear-shifts they needed to in order to reconcile not seeing me every day.

A big change for me meant a big change for them too.  After all, I was practically a part of the furniture.  Maybe they missed me and maybe they didn’t.  I’ll never know.

Perhaps no one reached out because they were feeling anxious and awkward.  Here I am, working on Friday afternoon, and not returning on Monday morning.  So no one really knew what was happening, nor did I wish to tell them anything.  Maybe we’d keep in touch via email or social networks, but that didn’t happen to me.

I know it’s normal to feel a bit of sadness when you leave colleagues and friends behind.  Maybe they were pissed that I left.  Or they were happy and proud of my change.  Advice columns state:  “Just do what you can to keep in contact.  If you want to.  Things will never be the same.  That’s life.”

Indeed.  Over the past year, I periodically would wonder about those ex-coworkers.  And maybe they wondered about me too.  But no more.  As the year moved on, I thought about them less and less.  And I’m sure they did the same.

I’ve made new acquaintances at this current job, and I’ve come to realize that working at age 60 is different than it was at 30.  Remember when work was your main source of a social life?  And now, while I’m friendly with folks at work, my social life and my work life don’t intersect.  That’s just the way it is.



Furnishing the 60 Blog

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Mario Burata:  Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture.

My dad worked in retail for as long as I could remember.  He usually worked weekends and was off two weekdays, and it was a schedule the family was always used to. Mom didn’t drive, so Mom and Dad would grocery shop on his day off and we’d usually go out to eat the other weeknight.  Holidays like Memorial Day were just workdays for Dad.

Dad was the furniture expert.  For many years, he sold furniture at a high-end store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The store was owned and named for Daniel Jones, and, when Leslie and I were young teenagers (and we ran the elevators on Sundays), it appeared that the sales people were all middle-aged white men.  (More about that later.)  I remember one woman who worked there, and thinking back now, it seemed she had to work twice as hard to get sales.

They worked on a commission basis and the sales people rotated to take the next new customer who walked in the front door.  As a young girl, the store fascinated me, and the furniture always seemed expensive.  I remember hearing “it’s from South Carolina” or “this is a Daniel Jones exclusive” and the sales people were always selling and cajoling.

Whenever we needed furniture as a family, Dad always found what we needed.  As adults, and living in California, Dad worked at various department stores and was always able to get us good furniture at a discounted price.  We inherited a green leather sofa from my Dad and stepmom many years ago and we still put it to good use.  (I can easily fall asleep on it watching TV!)

However, Leslie and I have been wanting new furniture.  The accent chair is just not comfortable any more and we need a new look in the living room.  So on our way to a July 4th cookout, we stopped at Ashley Furniture to look at a couch we had seen online.  The store was filled with all kinds of shoppers and sales people.  You could tell the sales staff was just waiting to be called to handle the next shopper, and we had the name of someone we had previously spoken with on the phone.

What a multi-cultural experience!  Shoppers spoke with accents, were young and old, with children and without, and there were no middle-aged white men working as sales people that day.  The sales people are the demographic of the shoppers, of course, and I’m not complaining.  To me, it seems that middle-aged white men are not walking the floors of an enormous furniture store handling non-stop sales all day long, 40 hours or more a week.

Again, it’s not a bad thing.  Not a good thing. Just a different thing.  If we could go back in time and my dad and stepmom were in their 40s or 50s working in the furniture industry, what would they think?  Of course, if time travel was the norm, we wouldn’t have even been at Ashley Furniture, and we would have gotten our new couch and chair-and-a-half at a discounted price and maybe bought other furniture with our savings.