And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings. – Meister Eckhart
Five years ago today, July 7, 2017, I drove into downtown Birmingham for my last day of work. After 37 years at a large Birmingham company, I was retiring from corporate life. During those 37 years, I had four very different careers within this company. And I was very fortunate to be able to create a position that really gained my company recognition and praise around the state, thanks to the foresight of an executive who was such a mentor to me. He was determined to get a multicultural markets position, that we worked to create together, established for me because during that particular time, the Hispanic population in Alabama was booming. It was crucial to have someone in company coordinating efforts to enable employees to best serve the Hispanic population. That position went on to define my work life as well as my personal life. Looking back, I realize that everything that I did up to that time led me to that position and its success for over ten years. Those were some of the best years of my career too.
I was 57 when I retired. Honestly…I thought about finding another corporate job and continuing to work but I just never did. Maybe because there were plenty of other things to do! But more on that later… I’m now 63 years old and this is actually around the age that I had planned to retire. In fact, Eddie and I had already decided what our retirement date would be. One day we went to lunch at Brio. Neither of us were having the best of days for some reason. Because of this, we got onto the subject of retiring. We talked about what we would do with our time, the trips we would take and how we would live our lives after working for so long. So, I said, “let’s set a date!” We both pulled out our phones, opened our calendars and looked about five years into the future and selected a date. We considered our vacation time and holidays and there it was…our last day in the office would be April 16, 2021, then we would take our vacation and our official retirement date would be…June 2, 2021! We decided we would ride to work together that day – our schedules were always so different we never rode together even though we worked in the same building – and we would walk out together hand-in-hand at the end of our last day. As soon as we decided this, it felt like a weight had been lifted from us and with that goal in mind, we were ready to work out the next five years.
Of course, one of the underlying themes of retirement that I’m discovering after talking to so many friends over these past few years is that retirement plans don’t typically go as you imagined. I think many people have the image of setting their retirement date, getting the company party or some other fanfare and leaving on a cloud, so to speak. But for me, it was a corporate reorganization in my department that changed it all. My department had been going through a reorganization for over two years. I think most of us were so weary of the reorganization talk that we just didn’t think it would ever happen. But when it did, it happened quickly.
For me, it was just a good time to leave. Professionally, I felt like I had accomplished all I could at the company especially in my last position. Personally, Eddie and I felt we had planned well enough financially for me to leave at that time. Making the decision to leave…to retire…actually became an easy one at that point. So that Friday, July 7, 2017…after saying goodbye to my remaining co-workers (several retired along with me) and making a trip to HR for some final paperwork, I got back in my car at noon, left the parking deck for the last time and drove back home. Once at home, I opened a bottle of wine I had been chilling, poured a glass and felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over me.
Today, July 7, 2022, and five years later to the day, I hope to be on a plane with Eddie at 3:30 p.m. EST to Paris, France. We planned this trip in 2019 to coincide with Eddie’s retirement in May 2020 and to celebrate both our retirements. Of course, we had to postpone due to the pandemic to the following May 2021 and then again to the fall of 2021 and finally to this year in July 2022. There were times when I wondered if we would ever get to take this trip but today…here we are. As the days have drawn closer, I’ve been cautiously excited and I have also seen the same type of excitement start to build in Eddie too.
I’ve done a lot of living these past five years. Seriously, it has felt non-stop! I worked three United Way campaigns as a Loaned Executive Manager, helped my mother clean-out her house, get it repaired and sold and then move to a retirement village, planned my youngest daughter’s wedding, seen three granddaughters born, helped my son move back to Birmingham from Wetumpka, continued working with Fiesta to provide scholarships to Hispanic students through a Latin themed festival, worked with non-profits like Girl Scouts, HICA and Children’s Aid Society, planned multiple events for friends and non-profits, and been a food blogger with a la carte Alabama, to name a few things. I’ve found there is never a lack of things to do or things I want to do. I’ve also realized that since the pandemic, I’m getting better a little better at disconnecting and experiencing JOMO – you know, the “joy of missing out.”
Sometimes I think this trip to France has been postponed so much to give me time to accomplish all the things I just mentioned and now shift gears to focus on my next chapter with Eddie – just the two of us. We still have a lot of living to do and a lot of retirement memories to make with each other beginning with this trip. Meanwhile, I already have ideas on where we can go and what we can do next. And no matter what that ends up being, I’m just so happy to have Eddie by my side so we can do all of this together.