Lifestyle

The Road Ahead: I Just Retired!

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My life has been a whirlwind of activity in the months following my public announcement that I would be retiring, including navigating the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays. My last day of work was the 17th of December, which happened to coincide with our company Christmas party.

Having been caught up in all the activity and festivities of that day, I was able to only skim the sentiments written in the retirement cards I received from my beloved work family, friends, and my two daughters. This morning I finally sat down with a cup of coffee, the January sunlight streaming through the window, and the stack of cards.

I’m such a sentimentalist, I knew the printed words on the cards and the personal messages contained within would be a source of reflection, joy, and inspiration that would serve to lead me into retirement like an enthusiastic team of high school cheerleaders escorting their football team onto the playing field.

“But they’re just cards” you may say. And although that is true, in my opinion their messages are worthy of attention by anyone considering retirement, the newly retired, or those seasoned retirees who may need a little booster. Here’s my takeaway on the magic in the cards:  

  • It’s important to celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Relaxation, big dreams, possibilities and new adventures are common themes.
  • You have earned the right to enjoy the fruits of hard work and your successes.
  • Most people are truly excited for you, and some wish they were in your shoes.
  • There may be one person, probably a close co-worker/friend, who lovingly, although begrudgingly, wishes you well.
  • You had an impact on your company, co-workers and others.
  • Today’s itinerary is whatever you want it to be.
  • Some people really like you and think they are better for knowing you.
  • Some people consider you a mentor and a leader.
  • It can be hard to say goodbye.
  • Endings are another word for new beginnings.
  • You are a trusted friend.
  • Early morning kitchen chats at the water cooler or coffee pot are more than just small talk.
  • Some of the best parts of your job will follow you into retirement, such as vacations, holidays, weekends, long lunches and coffee breaks!

I absolutely adore and embrace all of the sentiments above, but in all honestly, the most meaningful cards came from my two daughters. Each time I read their well wishes, tears of joy well up in my eyes and their words land like a feather floating into my heart.

My eldest wrote, Mom, may you finally breathe and listen to your heart. There is so much to explore and I hope that you take the time to enjoy every special moment that God sends your way, both big and small.

And my youngest wrote, Can’t wait for you to begin the rest of your life and continue to live out your dreams! P.S. Can’t wait to read your book 😊.

The cards are definitely a source of inspiration for me, but the bigger question is, do I have the courage to live my best life in retirement? For the first time, I truly feel like I’ve paid my dues (without regret) and now have the opportunity to choose me first. Well, except for that pesky little tug at my ankles that still proves a bit difficult to shake off.

This immediately reminds me of a verse in one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, “The Journey.”

Yes, “the voices” are still there, but none are as formidable as my own. Going forward, which of my voices will I allow in the driver’s seat? Will it be the voice of fear, the critic, the coward? Or, will it be the voice of courage, the dreamer, the creator?

“The Journey” rings true for both retirement and growing older. It is literally getting late in the game and the phrase, “it’s now or never” is taking on a whole new meaning.

So, as I sit this morning contemplating my future, I’m praying for self-honesty and the courage to act on it each and every day. Should I fail to find my courage any one day or in any one moment along the way, I trust that I will try again, as many times as is necessary, to stay on course.

I understand there will be bumps and bruises along the way, but I’m convinced that if I allow truth and courage to lead rather than fear, I’m way more likely to find myself on the same path contemplated by the ending of “The Journey.” And isn’t that a lovely place to be?

Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts on retirement! What is your most important piece of advice for someone beginning their retirement journey? What has been your biggest mental obstacle in living your best retirement life? How did you (or are you) overcoming it?



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