A good friend of mine, a colleague with whom I shared more than a decade of my career, retired yesterday. A small, select group of people - mostly economists, who had intersected his career over the decades had been invited and I felt privileged to be among them. People who had made his career enjoyable, people who had contributed to projects over the years and had assisted in the "good work" that had been done. My colleague, with whom I had enjoyed countless hours of collaboration over coffee over the years was choosing to leave the public service a few months ahead of schedule. Not because there wasn't still good work that needed to be done. Not because he was not willing to do that good work. Not because he disliked the people with whom he worked - but because, but because all of the reasons I had sought to leave the ministry the year prior. A kind of resignation to the reality of the situation at hand and an awareness that retiring was feasible in that context.
It was a pleasant gathering. A reminder of how doing good work, work that makes a difference and working with people who care about that work, who care about evidence informed policy is meaningful. A reminder of the value of coffee with true colleagues. A reminder of the value of remaining focussed on the things that matter. A reminder to do what one can to create the kind of environment and to surround oneself with the kind of people with whom you can collaborate and undertake good work.
That's really the nub of it. When you've had it, being anywhere else - where some critical element is lacking, creates a kind of hunger to find it, somewhere, somehow. To create it or recreate it, somewhere, somehow.
My friend valued his colleagues and his work - he was in the sweet spot for large chunks of his career - and there is something rewarding knowing that I had been (and those others who were in the room, celebrating his career with him) had been a part of the parts of his career where that three legged stool of occupational happiness were realized.