Injuries. Age. Losing your love for the game. These are all reasons a player could decide to hang up their cleats or sneakers, take off their uniform for the last time, and walk off into the sunset. Retirement is a big decision. And it’s not an easy one to make. It’s your career.
Think about it. You spend a large chunk of your life focused on a job. Then, for one reason or another, it’s time for you to move into the next phase of your life. In theory, we’ll all hit that point. It may not be at the scale of walking away from what you love forever, but leaving a job you’ve been in for a long time.
I remember when Ken Griffey, Jr. retired. I felt like my childhood was over. Junior made his MLB debut in 1989 when he was 19. I was two years old. The Kid played for 22 seasons, put up some insane numbers, and could have been even better if he hadn’t been hampered by injuries in the back end of his career.
Where I fit in
I obviously can’t imagine what it’s like for an athlete who was top of their game to end their career. However, I’m going through a time right now that may just be the closest I’ll get. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked at an agency that has given me boundless opportunity. I was traded from Boston to London, back to Boston, back to London, back to Boston again, and decided to move to New York in free agency (aka it was my decision) three years ago. I’ve been a bit of a journeyman.
But now, I’ve decided to move on from the only professional career I’ve known to head for a career in the arts. I have weird feels about it. On one hand, I’m ecstatic. It wouldn’t be a move I would make if I wasn’t excited about it. On the other hand, I’m looking back on my career there, a place I’ve worked for nearly one-third of my life. A good chunk of the people I would now consider to be my closest friends are people I met there. They allowed me to be creative, taught me so much, and gave me freedom.
It’s weird to think about how that decision affects other people. Ultimately, it’s my decision to make, but there are dominos that fall and I need to help place some of them. When Junior retired, people were angry with him. They felt like he owed them something. But he always said when he’s done, he’s done. He wanted to focus on being a dad, not becoming a coach. Yet those who are angry felt like he was quitting on them.
It’s not about quitting
That’s an interesting concept. The idea that moving on to something new is quitting on someone else. Junior is my all-time favorite player. He played the game hard, hit an absurd amount of home runs, and stayed clean throughout the steroid era. What more did he have to give? There’s no rule in place that says you have to play, then manage. Shouldn’t Junior and other players have the choice to close the chapter on their sporting career and move on to something new?
There are a few people who have told me I’m nuts for leaving now. I’m just shy of my 10 year anniversary, which would award me a month-long sabbatical. Why leave before that? Why quit on yourself? The fact of the matter is, I simply don’t see it that way. I woke up one day a couple weeks ago, did some self reflection, and realized the time is now. Did it switch up the plan I had for myself? Yes, it absolutely did. But that’s life, isn’t it?
Every individual has a path that they want to follow. There isn’t a tried and true template. That’s the beauty of humanity. We’re all different. We have the ability to make choices that make us happy. Particularly as of late, I think it’s necessary to make those choices, regardless of where that takes you or how much of a change it will be. Change is hard.
I never thought I’d work a 9-5. Office jobs didn’t speak to me when I was growing up. I’ve done my time, in a way, and now it’s time for the real fun to begin.
- / 11 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.