On March 31st, I celebrated my first year of ‘retirement’. I put the term in quotes, because I don’t know that the word ‘retired’ is applicable – if you scramble the letters around, I think you get to a more appropriate description of my state of mind – ‘tireder’ and/or ‘retried’. I had grown more and more tired of trying to retain a culture and philosophy that in an evolving firm had become outdated and probably to some, pretty hokey. I had tried too often to excite senior management about employee engagement, accountability, career development, and the joys of communicating in any manner that didn’t require technology. At the risk of redundancy, I was so flippin’ lucky – I worked in a firm that embraced me and my crazy commitment until I realized that it was time for me to pack it in. I wasn’t going to be able to contribute anymore – the train was pulling out of the station and I chose not to buy a ticket.
But – it’s still an anniversary. I should get a present or something (note to self – talk to husband). It’s been a year of tremendous growth, with incredible highs coming from places I would never have expected and dark blues that I hadn’t anticipated which gripped some days with vice-like intensity. I’ve learned that retirement doesn’t separate you from your convictions (I know, big duh if you’ve been reading my blog) – I still care as passionately about the principles I followed when I was working full-time. I’ve learned that you are not going to be defined by what you did for a living but how you lived while you were working. Over the course of this past year, I’m sure I have been vilified and canonized – perhaps even at the same time, remembered fondly and with derision – that is the territory of all who have experienced extended employment tenure. And I’ve learned that it really doesn’t matter – what counts is my continued love and commitment to the people who have remained my friends.
I discovered that working independently is both freeing and lonely. A side benefit of going to work each day is having people to engage with, who are also struggling with intense workloads and challenges as well as lives outside of work that they are struggling to stay connected to. The transition from 200 emails in my inbox each morning that required me to accelerate from 0 to 60 pre-coffee, to coffee and the paper first with no rush to get out the door wasn’t easy (though I have come to LOVE it). Connected to that intensity was the implicit need that others had for me in one way or shape or form, and I liked that. Finding a new rhythm was a challenge – knowing I had a groove, but not knowing where the hell I was supposed to dance. Consulting has provided an excellent segue for me – allowing me the freedom of self-exploration with the structure of developing meaningful programs and training opportunities. It’s also given me time to hang with my kids who are local (when they’re not working or with their spouses), go to the gym, make some new friends, be a better friend to my old friends, and continue to fight with a bit more focus on a body that keeps throwing me medical surprises and loops for which I’m never prepared. That old Faces song “Oh La La” reprises in my head “I wish that I knew what I know now/When I was younger”…
Finally I have learned that there are phenomenally talented, generous people out there in Bloggerland who teach me something new every time I read their posts, share a conversation online or exchange a ‘shout out’ in appreciation for their tremendous efforts. These virtual friends evoke very real emotions within me – I celebrate their success, try to answer the questions they pose of their readers, laugh, etc. Sometimes it feels like there’s lots of virtual hugging going on – and quite honestly, long may it continue. These writers have inspired and humbled me. When I started this in mid-January, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t – but now it doesn’t bother me as much. There are many more who have been more successful, but there are unquestionably few who have derived more delight and connection than me. So, Happy-Sorta-Anniversary to me…may new adventures still greet me each day. “Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” — Eleanor Roosevelt (and agreed to this day, by me :-)).