We’ve talked before about retiring and being prepared for what’s next, but the topic keeps cropping up. When I recently asked you to let us know what you’d like to see covered, the gamut ran from “More guns and gear!” to “Keep the bar raised high on leadership” and “Don’t ever be hesitant to keep using the plain-speak voice you’re famous for at COP.”
I took the last one to heart.
We’ve sometimes raised eyebrows when we’ve dared to speak the obvious about a situation, trend, policy, lack of leadership, great leadership and even about how we address cops who are about to retire … let me expand on retirement.
It’s become sort of routine to applaud, congratulate, back-slap and otherwise hail the cop who’s about to pull the plug after 30-odd years. And that’s fine, even commendable and usually very deserving. Being a cop is often a tough job, and most of us who survived gave away years of our lives for a good cause. We missed family times, probably nursed our way through injuries and lawsuits, spent mind-numbing days in court, courted disaster on a daily basis in a thousand memorable ways and otherwise had quite the ride.
But now what? As Shakespeare said, “Therein lies the rub.”
There are those of you (us?) who are — or were — prepared for retirement. Then again, there are tens of thousands who aren’t — or weren’t. It really is like riding a roller coaster. Slamming around, banging up, down, sideways, crashing noises, numbing vibration, yelling, pushing, poking, laughing, crying … then suddenly — nothing. Your fingers are still tingling, just a bit … but that goes away, fast.
Those with the right mindset anticipate the changes, talk with retired cops, find new focus, direct their energies with new ideas, use what they learned on the job to keep growing and pushing their personal envelopes ahead.
What they don’t do is mark time, constantly relive the past or wish for the old days — for what once was — those “grand days, the best days of my life” you hear so many talk about. And those are often the officers who die at age 52, without enjoying what they had worked so hard for.
Were they really the best days of your life? I saw a video of a 94-year-old WWII veteran, a former flyboy who was a gunner on a B17. The old-timer was climbing out of a B17 after a ride with his buddy, also a vet, and as the camera focused on his face, he had a giant grin. He said, “That was the best day of my life!”
He didn’t get to the best day of his life until he hit 94. Think about it. What’s ahead for you?
It’s what you make it, and you need to make it right. I call it hitting the reset button on your life. “Those” days are over now, and something called “new days” are about to start if you’re retiring. They’ll be strange days, with actual time you can spend wisely, or for fun, or with family, or anyway you like. Be prepared for the new days with ideas, questions, energy, direction and drive.
Don’t get caught in the stale air of the past. You did that already, you were there and you earned the T-shirt, as they say. Now wear your shirt as you feel your fingers start to tingle, thinking about what lies ahead. I hope you can hardly wait to get your hands on it.
Get excited about the future. Don’t dread it. I can personally tell you it can be a blast. Did I mention I’m about to go to Africa to hunt an elephant? How might that compare to a graveyard shift in the cold with a jerk for a sergeant riding your back? Reset. Ha!