Three hundred plus days ago today, I was counting down the hours to the official beginning of my life on permanent PTO, also known as “retirement”.
After 32 years, on Friday October 11th of 2013, I exited the Cox Communications C-Tech Building B around 11:30am, took the elevator 5 floors down to the parking deck and left quietly, just as I had planned.
My wonderful boss at the time, Nikki Heise, walked with me all the way to my car, wished me well and gave me a great big hug. I had planned for that day and that decision for over 24 months.
I knew the year of my 55th birthday, I knew that at Cox you had to be 55 in order to be considered an “early retiree”, and I knew the day was coming. I consulted others who’d retired, I worked with a wonderful financial planner, I did the math over, under, inside, outside, sideways, circular, all calculations, all iterations and possibilities imaginable. And I knew in all the planning and consideration that I would periodically review “the plan” and make adjustments if needed.
The following Monday, October 14th, 2013, I boarded a late afternoon flight to New York, connecting there to a flight that arrived in Accra, Ghana the following morning, where I spent 64 days with the Mawuvio’s Outreach Programme in Kissemah Village. That trip on that specific Monday also planned.
It was my way to physically, mentally and emotionally exit the life, the routine, the comfort and confidence of what I had known and lived for the past three decades. It was my way of diving into the deep end of the pool. Being with the children in Ghana was a guarantee that I would not look back, at least not in the immediate transition.
School on the porch with the Primary One Class of Mawuvios, became school in my heart and mind. The lessons learned during those 2 months in Ghana are with me forever. I hope that one day in the future, when the children of the Primary Class One are older, that I can thank them for everything they taught me. Elijah, Lillian, Grace Mary, Abil, Florence, Joyline, Shalome, Prince, Victor, Akos, Angela and Godsway I will be forever grateful to all of you.
I know everyone makes this life transition differently, some plan, some don’t, some retire because of health, because of spouses, because companies right size and packages are offered; for everyone it’s different and unique. And as much planning and research and consideration you apply to this decision, the model is different for everyone: ideas, expectations, plans, values, fears, imagination, possibilities, they are different for every person. And rightly so.
The constant in my life throughout the planning, the rock solid foundation in my heart and mind that quiets my fears and at the same time encourages my curiosity, my willingness to risk, to discover, to venture and adventure, my faith in God. If you’ve read any part of this blog for the past several years, you know Anne Mahlum, you know about her untimely death in Barcelona, Spain, 4 Octobers ago, and you know that impact her 50+ days in ICU in Spain had on my life. Anne you're forever in my heart.
I’ve learned so much in the past year.
I’ve learned to consider more, appreciate more and slow down.
I'm appreciative everyday for everyday.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to have time and time and more time.
I've learned to be comfortable with doing nothing.
Me, a Type A child of two Type A parents, I learned to perfect a nap out back on the patio on the camping hammock with Maddie by my side and Morgan not too far away.
I’ve learned to drink my morning cappuccino over the course of 20 minutes, versus the 2 or 3 minutes when I was working. Reading a good book is the best ! Having time to write Grandma Chichi stories, a delight !
A few weeks ago, I started writing a weekly hand written missive to one of my favorite people in the world. Every Sunday, pen to paper, a gift I give myself.
I am grateful for the ability to travel and make connections with people I love dearly. My Uncle Dick and Aunt Julie and Tia Laura in Panama, my 7th Grade English Teacher, Miss Young, in northern CA. I can now visit Toby in California and stay for 3 weeks.
In March I visited the children and staff of Mawuvios in Ghana, I hope to see them again soon in 2015. In April it was a road trip to Florida to visit dear friends, Parker, Gail and Keith. In May I spent wonderful days with my life long childhood friend, Pat in Los Angeles. In a few days I’m going to Brooklyn to see my niece, JoAnn. I’ve always had a list of places I want to visit – maybe I will get to go, maybe I won’t, the consideration of being able to is wonderful.
During this past year I’ve missed my parents. Not sure exactly why, maybe it’s because I’ve had time to think and consider their physical absence in my life. Maybe it’s because if they were alive, I would definitely be spending time with them. Maybe because during this year of heightened awareness on all the goodness of life, I would’ve loved to be able to share “me” with them.
I know they know I am OK. I would love to have the opportunity to thank them for the legacy of their lives that journeys in my veins everyday.