We advance through a series of milestones in our lives that generally include high school graduation, marriage, children, promotions, retirement, and death.
I suspect that we balk at retirement because we somehow imagine that postponing the next to last step will defer the final one. That’s a shame, because retirement can be the best stage of life. Work is overrated.
I had a rewarding career in Facilities Management that concluded with service to New Mexico State University as AVP of Facilities, CAPPA as President, and a term on the APPA Board of Directors. I was a recipient of the APPA Meritorious Service Award, and NMSU achieved the Award for Excellence. This all occurred as I turned 65 and completed my 10 years of service to NMSU, thus earning retiree insurance. My boss, the Senior VP of Finance and Administration, and the President also retired. The signs were flashing that the time was right.
Yet, I was ambivalent. We get so much of our self-worth from our profession that I was not quite ready to turn in my keys. However, every single retired person I talked with wished that they had retired sooner. All were pleased to learn how much less money they needed now that they weren’t frequently eating out, and every one of them was pleasantly surprised to find out how much less in taxes they paid. Each was glad to have time to spend with family and on hobbies.
The people who were still working advised me the other way, commenting that “I don’t know what I’d do,” “I need a few more years of earnings,” and “I still have things to accomplish.” Many of these folks were well past the requisite retirement age.
After a lot of thought, prayer, financial calculation, and discussion with many wise people, my wife finally convinced me that it was time. In March of 2019, we sold the house, moved into our RV, and took out across the country. At my retirement party, the Deputy Chief in the NMSU Fire Department told me that there were several occasions where he was with someone as they lay dying, and he never had anyone express the wish to have spent more hours at work.
In fall of 2019, we settled in south Texas for the winter. I mentioned to my doctor that I had a small ulcer under my tongue, and she sent me to a specialist. That led to a biopsy, and then a life-changing conclusion: “You have cancer.” I completed treatment in March of 2020, and my last MRI showed that the tumor had shrunk remarkably. I am in for a lifetime of twice-yearly monitoring scans.
You will never have as much time as you think. In her poem, The Dash, Linda Ellis writes that our gravestones record the dates of our birth and death but what really matters is what we do with The Dash – that time in between. As she writes,
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
If your hopes and dreams are to enjoy a different aspect of life when you finish working, there is less time than you think. Plan now, and more importantly, think about holding your nose and just jumping in with us, the water is fine. Work is a phase of your life and not the most important one at that. I’m glad I learned that while I had time left.
Glen and ElizaBeth travel the country with their three dogs Izzy, Sugar, and Pepper in a 30 ft RV and chronicle their adventures here: http://ghaubold.com/itinerant-rvers/
(A full copy of the poem, The Dash, by Linda Ellis, Copyright © 2020 Inspire Kindness may be found here: thedashpoem.com)