We spent many hours together, up to 16 at a time, sometimes for 14 or 21 days straight. That's enough time to get to know a person. You learn what they like to eat for lunch, what their pet peeves are, what will cause them to have a meltdown. Often you dive deeper too, finding out their fears, insecurities, and what brings them joy. I've had coworkers tell me things they wouldn't reveal to their significant others.
And yet, when you leave the job, that bond is usually broken, unless you're friends outside of work. I'm sure many colleagues are; with my job it was hard, though. I was the boss of my crew: I had to maintain a certain boundary with them, and socializing makes it difficult. Plus, when you spend so much time at work, you want to get away from it all on your time off, to see your non-fire friends, or revel in solitude.
My former workplace has gone on without me, which, of course, it's supposed to do. The ink barely dries on your retirement papers before someone else is occupying your job. I don't hear work gossip. People experience major life events that I don't know about. Others get promoted, some past their level of competence or despite their questionable ethics. I was there for almost ten years, but suddenly I'm not a part of it anymore. The appreciation I felt from my work friends and colleagues is gone.
This is normal, though. I haven't even been retired six months, and I'm still navigating my world without fire and without employment. I don't want to be a hanger-on, one of those people who shows up at retirement parties, circling the room looking for someone to talk to. It's time to move on.
Luckily, I have another group of friends. They don't fight fire. They range in age from mid 20s to mid 70s. We mostly hike together, but sometimes take dogs for walks or have dinner. They're the people who stuck by me when fire assignments and a pandemic kept us apart. I deeply appreciate them. By just being in my life, they are helping me turn the page on my past life and move on into the new chapter.
|We might be weird, but we are here for each other|