Retiring – it seems as though I have done this before, that deja vu kind of feeling you get at the oddest moments…mmmm wait a minute, I remember now — I have done this twice before.
The first time I retired was waaaaayyyy back on February 29, 1996 (yeah, I never seem to do anything very normal). I retired from the Coast Guard after more than 20 years service.
When I retired that time I was 38, unhappy with the constant moving and upheaval that being in the military has on a family’s life.
I really thought that by retiring it was going to bring stability to my family and allow them to remain in one place for more than two years. I also knew that I would go to work for many more years and eventually settled on a new career.
Unfortunately, the decision to retire from the Coast Guard didn’t work out the way I expected, planned or wanted – the stability I had wanted became a moot point, when that marriage ended in divorce. When I look back at that choice with the 20/20 hindsight, the decision to retire that I made then was a mistake. I should have stayed in the Coast Guard based on how much I did and still do miss being a Coastie.
Live and learn.
The second time I retired was to regain my health. I was a Junior High Special Education teacher, who was stressed out to the max all the time, couldn’t come to grips that I couldn’t help everyone on my caseload or classroom, coming off a knee injury that required knee surgery a lot sooner than I gave in and did it. I was about 60 pounds overweight and a prime candidate for an early grave at the age of 54.
I knew that if I did not change things and quickly, that reaching my 60th birthday would not be a given. So I retired and worked primarily at becoming a much healthier me for the next four years.
It worked, I turn 60 in August.
However, I wasn’t really ready to stop working and called this period semi-retired, sort of retired and a few other things and even started a little social media blogging business.
Once I cleaned my act up and got healthy again, I was still looking for a way to get back in the workforce – but only in a job that I wanted.
Eventually, I found that job at University College at the University of Maine Augusta. It had the flexibility, mission, the type of work I am good at and the right people to work with (Heidi/Helene/Brenda), plus it kept me around other people (beyond just other runners-a good thing most of the time).
Although I liked what I was doing, did a pretty good job, was surrounded by great co-workers, have developed a decent reputation and all the other positives about working at UMA…
If I really like the who, what, what, where and with who of the job I have, why retire now?
It comes down to my brother-in-law’s sudden death on June 1st.
Phil’s death forced me to look closely at my own mortality and how I want to spend the time that I do have left.
I do not feel that old, but I am only 6 years younger than Phil was when he died. I know that I am starting the final lap of this race, but there is plenty of time left to get things done, change how I do a few thing and enjoy the hell out of life.
After Phil died, Mary and I spent several 3 hour trips traveling to New Hampshire and back together. We had time to talk about many things, but the biggest thing we talked about was what we wanted out of life going forward. They were good and honest conversations, with long periods of thinking before some questions were answered.
Looking at my life I am definitely no longer fast-tracking up the company ladder and actually got off that train many years ago. We don’t have any debt to speak of, don’t go on big trips or have a McMansion to maintain. Honestly, we are pretty much homebodies and if I didn’t spend quite as much on running shoes, I would be considered frugal in how I spend money. So we are in a good space financially, not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we will get by without me working.
It came down to – do I want to spend the next two to six years bound to a work schedule, continuing to do things others expect me to do on a daily basis (besides Mary’s honey-do list) or do I want the freedom to spend that time doing things that Mary and I want to do.
Time is the most precious commodity we have, especially at this stage of our lives. When I stopped and look at what happened with Phil and how he lived to ensure that he would have a good retirement, how much were we doing some of the same things?
He had scrimped, saved, delayed things based on the belief that he would need them all later in his life. Everyone including Phil expected him to live well into his 80’s – he didn’t and it left a gaping hole in our lives that has made us stop and look at what is really important.
Also the shock, grief and demands on our time to deal with the aftermath of his unplanned death have been greater than I expected. Too much for me to continue to work, help maintain three properties (2 in a different state) and be there for my wife.
After thinking things through, considering the alternatives, we decided that it was time for me to retire – again.
I can walk away with my head held high, knowing that I made a small difference in some lives at UMA and made more than a few good memories for people while I was there. There will always be a special place in my heart for UMA, but I know in my heart that it was time to leave.
This time feels different than the other two times I retired.
I am older, a lot wiser, in good health and happy with the life I have beyond the work I do. My work is something I do, it is not who I am, which is a huge change in perspective from the old me and from where I sit, a very healthy one.
While I will miss the daily interactions with all the people I have had the pleasure to work with over the past two years at UMA. Retirement for me will not be retreating to the couch and sitting there waiting to die…
It will be lived fully and well.
Now on to the next chapter in my life and to see what grand adventures I will have or should I say, what life will bring in the Winter of my life’s story.
Yep, they say three times is a charm. 🙂
This song means more to me now, than it ever has.