Social Retirement

During one of my rare moments of freedom a few weeks ago, I sat down to breakfast with my friend Kameron. We talked of my upcoming employment, how our families were doing, updates on our cats, the usual. She mentioned that her grandfather had recently retired from the workforce…for the third time.
“I guess he just liked all the retirement parties,” she said. “If he tries to start it up again and retire a fourth time, I think they’re just going to give him a fake address for the retirement party so he gets the hint.”
I can totally relate. Ever since May, it seems like life has been one big retirement party. My closed captioning coworkers took me out for sushi during my last week there, and it was just really flattering. I mean, I enjoyed working at the company, but when they said what a good job I had done and how much they would miss me, I was like, “Wait, you know who I am, right? The one who sat quietly at her desk for weeks, only ever speaking to shout out expletives at how frigging fast they talk in ‘Gilmore Girls.’ Yeah, THAT’S me.”
I had always thought of my job as autonomous, and each person anonymously carried their own weight. So it was very touching to have a heartfelt goodbye from them.
Then when I got to theater camp literally the day after I quit, the director announced to everyone that, despite my saying it every year since I left college, this would REALLY be my last year, as it would be a hell of a commute from Japan to Pennsylvania.
At camp, I had what you may call “assistants” and what I call an “entourage.” Yes, I’m exaggerating, but I have literally 13 years of experience doing this job, and for those of you playing at home, that’s 1/2 of my life. So when someone says, “Gee, Lauren, how do you juggle getting coffee, babysitting campers on break, buying lunch, washing dishes, stage managing, AND being yelled at by the directors?” I just shoot them the ol’ hand-pistol…and run off to a corner to cry.
No, it just takes some thick skin and a hell of a lot of post-it notes to do my job. But, yes, it was very flattering to hear that they will miss me next year. I will miss them all as well, and to anyone who takes my position next year, I have this advice: Stick to your guns. When someone screams in your face, scream right back. You will have your comeuppance when the fire alarm goes off. :) God, I love being right.
Well, enough with passive-aggressive inside jokes. I usually go through Post-Camp Withdrawal, and this year I suspect it will be particularly bad. From being surrounded by 100 adoring little kids to living alone in a country where I can’t speak the language…let’s say that I’m aware of impending breakdowns that may occur at any moment.
My last few days in Pittsburgh were spent trying to take camcorder footage of the city, both for me to remember and to show Japanese children where I grew up. I also spent some time with my neighbors, which is always fun. Until they whipped out the karaoke machine “to prepare me” for the year to come. I thought my neighbor’s daughter was going to die of embarrassment, so I stepped up to the mic and showed the world why Elton John was chosen to sing “Your Song” instead of me.
I’ve only been back in California for a few days, but the countdown is ever looming, so I’m trying to cherish all my time spent with my friends. I haven’t eaten one meal in my own house, so that’s a pretty good sign.
But, yes, I can see why Kameron’s grandfather wanted to retire three times. If you never leave your place of security, it’s true that you won’t miss all the fun that would be happening without you, but you also might not realize how much your friends care about you.
I am the Queen of fearing change and not being able to let go of things — Hello, I stayed with theater camp 9 years after I graduated from being an actual camper. But to follow this dream of mine to work in Japan, I will have to give up some of my social comforts.
So I apologize for how egotistical this whole post sounds, but I’m just feeling good about knowing how much people care. And I hope I can buy them enough presents and send enough postcards to show them how much I care about them back.

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