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January 4, 2013 · 8 comments

in Aging and Life,Reflections on Life

First thing this morning I read another thought-provoking post on Lynne Spreen’s blog, Any Shiny Thing, about Hillary Clinton’s recent medical challenges. In the article, Spreen speculated she may be contemplating retiring from public life, in part because “Some things are more important than being Leader of the Free World. Like sleeping in, or turning off your phone for a couple days and catching up on the last few years’ worth of movies or books.”

Today I said farewell to a treasured colleague who is retiring after thirty-seven years, seven months, and two days, of working for the same company. She walked out of the office for the last time and grabbed on to that brass ring she has worked long and hard to attain.

Gerry and I are talking a lot about retirement lately. I lost count of the number of times over the past couple of weeks, as we had time away from work to do things we enjoy, that one of us commented “this is what it will be like when we retire”.  All of a sudden, it’s like when you’re pregnant and you begin to see other pregnant women everywhere; I’m seeing retirees all over the place these days.

Take note retirees: not only do I see you, I’m also watching and learning from you.

And I’m seeing that the concept of retirement is as varied and diverse as we are. Where one may choose to live in a retirement community in someplace hot and sunny, another may cringe at leaving behind long-time family and friends to relocate. Some folks who live in harsher climates may choose the snowbird life, traveling to warmer climates during the winter months, others may relish time doing things at and around their home.

Many people are not so much retiring as they are changing direction and focus. For some, it’s taking up new hobbies or getting back into hobbies they had to set aside to some extent during their working years. Others relish the opportunity to take up volunteer work of some sort, and there are those who choose to embark on a new career in a field they are passionate about.

For others, retirement can be a challenge. There may be concerns about health, finances, family, that keep them from experiencing the abundant retiree lifestyle dream we’ve been sold for so many years.

I wrote an article for a local paper some time ago about a man who went back to school after he retired and became a librarian, a career he enjoyed well into his 80s. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that he was doing something he loved contributed to his longevity. In the article I made reference to an actuarial study that stated:

The conclusion and recommendation of the report is that whenever possible, we plan our careers and finances such that we can retire at age 55, thereby increasing the changes that we will live a long and productive life well into our 80s.

As I draw nearer to my own retirement date I can’t help but feel exhilarated about the possibilities that await when I’m not tied to corporate life and the decision as to how I spend my time is my own.  For example, there’s a facilitator’s manual on my desk for a workshop I intend on offering in the spring. More about that to come, suffice to say for now that doing these workshops is one of the goals I have for retirement.

The challenge I face, in what I intend to be my final year in corporate life, is to take time to enjoy the journey and remain flexible. I’ve got my dreams and plans, but I know full well that one’s direction can change in a second with a late-night phone call or an unexpected diagnosis, and that it’s vital that we remain flexible in those moments.

Today, on this fourth day of a new year, I’m thankful that early retirement is an option for me; I’m excited about the work in front of me and thinking about the legacy I’ll leave behind; but I’m also ever-mindful that, as my dad and Robbie Burns used to say: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”.

And I’m trusting. Just trusting.

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