Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeling the loss

I've been cleaning out my office now for about a week. I've packed up my books and personal effects. What I'm still dealing with are the many boxes of reprints of published papers that I've accumulated over the years.

As I go through each box, I see the names of those individuals I have known in this long career. Some of these people were like heroes to me. I read their published work, thought about their ideas, incorporated some of their methods into my own studies.

I see the names of those who have long ago retired. I read the inscriptions from those who have been dead for many years. These people shaped my career. I feel sad as I look through these papers. The sadness is not only about their having moved on but about the impending move that I'm going to make in a little over six months. And yet, there is something more to this feeling than just the idea of leaving this job.

I think that what I am feeling is my own aging, my own loss of enthusiasm for the work. When I was finishing up my dissertation and just getting started in this career, I wanted to be at the top of my field. I wanted to be like my scientific heroes.

And now, after all has been said and done, I have accomplished quite a bit of what I set out to do. In the process, I took on chairing this department which meant more administrative work, more grant writing, and more efforts at keeping staff employed. Some part of me feels as if I sold out, gave up my heroes and true scientific pursuits. Another part of me screams that the love of science is still there, but that this is just a progression of life: To move on and begin a new chapter. I can't help thinking that I'm where I'm meant to be and that my heroes probably have felt the way I'm feeling at one time or another.

Meanwhile, all my reprints are going to the library here. They will be catalogued and put into the collection for others to use. Maybe some of the new staff will chance upon a reference that inspires them to find their own scientific hero.


  1. Boy oh boy do I feel ya today!

    Sometimes the shift that happens as we are reorganized by a higher power is a little disconcerting.
    We begin to move what feels like a little out of the harmony of life, a little out of rhythm as we look to the Spirit and learn some new steps and begin the dance anew...

  2. "Some of these people were like heroes to me." ...just like you will be to the next young scientist working their way to the top, like you did. I'm just now finishing my B.S. at 47. I feel like I've lost so much time. Other side of the coin, I guess. Change gets easier for me when I try not to forecast my future. My HP loves to surprise me.

    Hoping your future is all you need and most of what you want.


  3. One of the saddest times in my life was when, on a Sunday evening, I went to my office, after an 18 year career, went through my files and pitched all that was only of value to me and passed on that little that was still important to someone.

    While my situation was far less victorious than yours, it was a bad decision to do that alone on a Sunday afternoon - God alone got me through it...

    Bittersweet is the best that these sort of transitions seem to be...

    Blessings and aloha...

  4. Really great post on change and how it incorporates the feeling of loss... Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this experience.

  5. I feel similar to you these days. It makes me wonder if everyone goes through this stage in their life in some form or another.
    If it's any consolation, I will never look at the ocean, or a horseshoe crab) again without thinking of you.jeNN PS Al-Anon has a new ring to it too!

  6. wow, what a beautiful sentiment, i have never felt this way, i have never had what you have here, a career. i am still trying to start my life, i feel i am at chapter one, a little late but getting there.
    great post, what a wonderful tribute to your own life, you should be so proud.

  7. There are so many emotions that go along with closing doors. I think retirement is especially hard when we're still feeling young enough to continue working. The good news is that God has something else in store...and you have tools to walk through these feelings.

    This is a loss in your life, and you have begun the grieving process. We're here to walk with you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  8. So many people have a countdown in their minds to a retirement date. Sounds like they should also enjoy the journey. The best is yet to come for you.

  9. I gave my all in the careers that I had. I learned so much. I loved them. I was so happy when I retired. I haven't regretted it for a second.

    I loved your post. It was so honest and real. God bless you on your transition to whatever is coming next for you.


  10. The kind of grieving that you are experiencing is normal and healthy for the transition you're going through. In some ways, maybe you will find some good feelings in the sad reflections.

    I'm glad you have had such a rewarding career. I also believe your life going forward will be richer than you ever imagined because of your beautiful character and evolving program of recovery. You have a good heart.

  11. It seems to me that you are very clear about what you have done, the people who have inspired you and now you are moving on and leaving a positive legacy to those who will follow you in your work.

    All the best to you Syd.

  12. It is a new chapter in your life, remember with fondness all the good times and embrace what is to lie ahead.

  13. I find myself looking back at times thinking 'what if?', but then usually consider when all is said and done, I've made the best decisions I could have, with the limited information at that point in time. What really counts, I think, is what we do with today, and tomorrow, and to do our best going forward. So, I believe it is natural to look back and wonder, but to reflect on those memories and then focus forward.

  14. You are so fortunate to have a career where you get to see the end and the beginning of a new part of your life.
    more will be revealed

  15. Life changes like moving, changing jobs, divorce and retirement are in a sense like a "death". With all loss we experience the grief process and our own mortality. But from the loss always seems to come the excitement for what is next, what that next chapter will be filled with and how it will play out. Enjoy that excitement for the new chapter in your already wonderful life. I am sure whatever your endeavors are in retirement, they will be rewarding and fulfilling for you.

  16. I can't help but think that new and exciting things are ahead.

  17. I feel with you on this one Syd. I suppose when we were younger, there was so much more to do, so much of it unknown, yet as I have reached this point in my life, I realise there is little left for me to add in this particluar part of my life, it's others now who have all to add. I guess that,s the way of things, a passing of the old and a coming of the new. Perhaps in a few decades time a young man will be clearing out his office and come across old papers with your name on them and he too will realise the legacy you and those like you passed to him and so it will continue. Be proud of yourself Syd, the work your heroes, your mentors did was not in vain. You carried it on and built upon it and then you passed the message on to those still to come.

  18. oh i'd feel sad too. such a clear passage of time. but a new chapter's opening up, you just have to fill in the blanks. and this time round, you get to choose the tone and colour...

  19. Syd, here's a good laugh for you: I called you a "she" when I posted your comments on the banana slug! If you noticed and kept quiet about my idiocy, how kind you are. If you didn't notice, and now you are laughing, you needed the laugh.
    Moving on when you love your work is painful. I left a fabulous job in magazine publishing to relocate to a small town, where I now write essays for a dinky community "rag." I've often thought fondly of what I used to do. I've often enjoyed the interviews I do now, primarily of old people who love telling me their stories of the past.
    The riches that lie in wait for you are different from the riches you have savored up to now. That's my experience, anyway. Our Higher Power blesses us when we walk His way. And sorrow is just a healthy reaction to loss. Ride it like the wave it is. Have a blessed day.
    Chris A


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