THE BIG YELLOW BRICK ROAD TO OZ…AKA RETIREMENT
Let’s just start with the statement that the path from the decision to retire to actually doing it is a really squiggly path and hardly a straight line. Why? I’m not sure. That’s just the way the Retirement Gods plan these things…or at least how they did it for me.
When I signed away my old life six months before Retirement Day, I was so flummoxed that I actually signed the papers with the wrong year!!! Hmmmm…quite a Freudian slip for someone who prides herself on attention to detail. And further proof of my sadly erratic behavior was this visual: I literally threw the papers across someone’s desk in a rather rude manner…and I’m a pretty polite person. (I mean I’m from Rhode Island…..and New Englanders tend not to be like pushy New Yorkers.)
Going forward from there, my behavior continued to be pretty erratic, I’d say if I were watching from the outside. The best way to describe it? Classic denial. Sort of like when you see that bunion on your foot and it absolutely kills you when you put on those spikey heels and you adamantly claim that there’s no bunion and it doesn’t hurt and you come home and have to soak your feet for two hours—and they still hurt! So, I just went about my merry way at work, didn’t tell anyone or talk about my decision and just did what I always do: I continued in my goody-two-shoes behavior and was my normal good corporate-citizen self. I mean, if I behaved like I would be working forever, then perhaps I hadn’t actually made that decision, right? If I didn’t talk about it, then maybe the decision was lodged in some alternative universe (in the same galaxy as alternative facts) and not in my world? And if I behaved normally, then maybe the Gods would intervene to change things…or maybe lightening would destroy the docs and it would all be a bad dream?
Wow…as I read what I just wrote, I’d say that sounds really dumb. And I guess I would say that at the time, I had no clue why I behaved that way…I just did. I imagine that even an amateur shrink would say that if it’s not hurting anyone, go with it. Or maybe I could say that, hey, it was summer and summer is not a time to face reality, so wait until fall to accept the inevitable. Just like we did when we were kids and reality set in on that first day of school in September. I like that rationale…makes me sound a bit saner.
More seriously, when I did start telling a few people in September, I realized why I hadn’t told people before. My friends are my friends…and they care about me. And caring about me translates into offering advice and counsel. Normally that’s a good thing. But here…hmm…not so much. People were of course shocked and I kept hearing a common refrain—“You’ve got to start NOW making plans for what you’re going to do…You’re too smart to spend your life on the golf course…If you don’t work, you’ll be bored stiff and you won’t be who you are”. And these people were only trying to help.
But honestly, their advice had the opposite effect. I realized that what I wanted was NOT TO HAVE A PLAN OF ACTION. I had spent 50 years plotting, scheming, thinking and planning. And what I really wanted was to just veg for a while…for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. What a concept…to get off the treadmill and experience the world for a while and to …oh my gosh…sit with nothing to do for more than one minute at a time. The thought of that well deserved break from the rat race was incredibly compelling. And honestly, coming to grips with the vision of a break (not a permanent one, necessarily) helped me get over the hump of denial and start talking about my next step and controlling the conversation to explain why I was excited about it. Phew…I’m not crazy…I am in control!!!!