For months before R-Day, I walked around with scarlet letters virtually seared into my forehead. It's nothing like the “A” – for “Adulteress"-- which the Hawthorne heroine was fire-branded with to flog her for her femme-fatale ways. Rather, mine was an insipid “A” and “R” – for “About to Retire.”*
For a while, “A.R.” defined what I was. AR slowed down my walk, gave pause to my talk.
Office friend: Hey, have you heard the news?
Friend: The new UP Charter has been approved.
Me: So, what?
Friend: We’re no longer under SSL (Salary Standardization Law)
Me: Oh, wow. Will we get a raise?
Friend: But of course!
Me: Oh, finally, ha? Goodbye, starvation wages. Goodbye … Teka, when will it take effect?
(‘BOINK-TOINK” – the scarlet letters blink.)
Me: Uh-oh. About to retire na nga pala ako.
I got mushy over things. Events were prepositioned with a “last.” My last Christmas in the office. Last lantern parade. Last sunflower season. Last outing. Last ExecCom meeting. Last Christmas bonus/clothing allowance/productivity pay. Last project. Last hurrah.
But then, it made me look at things with a fresher, keener, more thankful eye.
More than ever, I savored the tree-lined campus, the old but trusty building, the lush landscape, the murals on the ground floor atrium, the airy second floor plaza, even my topsy-turvy room.
I relished how fortunate we all were who work there: cubicles for everyone, one computer-one-telephone per person, flexi-time, kitchenettes, and lounging places.
It is here where I found the unbossiest of bosses, freedom to take initiatives and make my own instructive mistakes, opportunities to lecture, write, research, get computer-savvy, train abroad, earn honorarium.
It is where I made fabulous friendships that sometimes teeter under the weight of office intrigues, committed myself to our development mission, fought – and sometimes went into hot water -- for what I believed in.
As I walked about with the blinking virtual letters, I thought it would really be hard to let go.
I didn’t know the office wasn't about to let go, either.
The other day, as I signed a retainer contract prepared by AO Din .....
Ooops, there go the scarlet letters.
*An allusion to the classic "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.