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A good case of the Mondays

This piece was written and published by Andria Brannan, on her personal blog. I believe it reflects what many of us experience on the same topic, retirement due to illness.

Andria and I met through Facebook and have connected through our shared journey with ALS. Before transitioning to retirement, Andria reached out to me. She did so because she was having a difficult time with this moment in her life. Not to ask advice, but to just share with someone who had done the same. It was in fact, a brief exchange over messenger. Nothing prophetic, just a friendly understanding ear. Shortly after, I checked in on her, to see how she was holding up. She sent me her blog entry.

Given the sentiment and relatebility of her words, I asked if I could share. She gave her blessing, thank you Andria!


A good case of the Mondays

About six weeks ago, I started yet another new normal around here – retirement.

Effective November 3, I am no longer working.

I’d like to say that it has all been celebration and happiness leading up to the actual decision and implementation, but in honesty, the weeks leading up to that last day were full of sadness and a deep sense of mourning about the loss of “work.” The status of my health has brought many losses in the last year (yes, and opportunities) – but this is a big one.

With the exception of the first year of college and then later, my first year of law school, I’ve been employed since age 14. The last few weeks have had me reflecting on all of those different roles. I’ve been a babysitter, a retail worker (a gift shop, two jewelry stores, the Gap, Hobby Lobby, and White House Black Market), a student employee in an HR department, a temp where I helped count votes to unionize pilots, an administrative assistant, a marketing coordinator, organized and staffed trade-shows for an electronics manufacturer, sold Pampered Chef, was a private tutor to a family that I’m 100% convinced was in witness protection, did word processing for other graduate students, was a nanny, provided after school transportation for kiddos, was a volunteer coordinator, a grant writer, clerked for a court, was a research assistant and a teaching assistant, a research attorney, a fundraiser/alumni relations director, a planned giving specialist, and most recently an associate vice chancellor for the largest public university system in our state. (List out all of your roles…you’ll surprise yourself.)

Now, I’m going to just be me.

I have always placed so much of my identity and self-worth in my work – particularly my professional roles in philanthropy. See, I’d gotten to a prime spot – Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement Services. Fancy, no? And trying to be that while also trying to fight a terrible disease, be a partner to my husband, a bonus mom, a daughter, a friend, an advocate – it was too much. It was time to step away – according to said husband and several others, likely way past time. Even with the luxury of working from home, being “on” for virtual meetings, navigating high-stress situations, staying on top of things, and maintaining a 40-hour work week was exhausting. Mental taxation and engagement causes a real physical toll on me. On the now rare occasions I did go on to the office, one day physically present there meant a day and a half to recover.

Yet, I’ve still been weepy and emotional about NOT working. Y’all, this is hard stuff.

I realize that I am extremely blessed to be able to do this. That the stars aligned and that I was smart enough to check the box for voluntary long-term disability coverage on my annual benefits election, that I even had a job that offers such coverage – all of that is a gift. That the amazing and smart benefits experts at my employer held our collective hands and helped to figure out a path forward that preserves some income through the disability claim and allows me to keep my desperately-needed health coverage. That not everyone would have this opportunity. That not everyone with ALS can focus on their health, on making memories and having experiences with loved ones, on chasing down potential treatments, on advocating for funding and cures and hope. I’m blessed and I don’t mean that in a trite or “hashtag” way. I get it. Believe me, I do.

Three things that have resonated with me as this “work” part of my journey closes out. First, during a conversation with my neurologist as I was openly weeping in an exam room about “not having work” – she quickly corrected me. She said, “Oh, I have work for you. I need 100 more Juan’s. You’re going to be a Juan for me and for ALS.” (If you know Juan, then you know.)

Next, our pastor gave a sermon about the death of Moses a few weeks ago. Moses led people and was a pretty important guy for a long, long time and then, there they were – at the Promised Land and God said, “Nope. Your work is done. You don’t get to be a part of this any longer.” In Joshua 1:2, God said, “Moses My servant is dead.” How’s that for a giant dose of humility? Leon told us about how this hit him hard, so hard that he made a sign for his office to remind him – someone sat in his office at the church before he did and someone will sit in it after. I couldn’t stop talking about this and I think John was afraid I was going to start comparing myself to Moses all the time. What I needed to hear at that moment and what I’ve taken from it over the past few weeks is this: we’re all replaceable and things will go on without us. Our time is fleeting and even when we allow ourselves to think we ARE our work or we are valued by how much of it we do, that’s just not the case. While my work was important and I’d like to think meaningful and useful to some, that work is going to go on without me. And that is completely fine.

Finally, a friend at the gym suggested that I write a job description for NOW – for the work I am going to engage in for me. I think that is a splendid idea. I probably won’t share it here, but I do think having something written down will go a long way in helping me to shape my purpose, to embrace every day, to allow for rest, and to make the most of all the things.

So, call me another Juan, or Moses (ha!), or just call me Andria-who-is-now-unemployed. I’m off to do some things tomorrow – or maybe do no things tomorrow and the ability to choose may be the best medicine yet.

Andria Brannan

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Although, when I did work my employment wasn't the most glorious job, I did kind of enjoy it. It was nice to be respected a little bit by my peers and a couple of salary people I worked for...


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