Creedence Clearwater Revival blasts Proud Mary in the background – that’s Internet radio for you, all music, anytime.
I pick each thing up, wondering if I still need it. A stapler? Probably not. Photos of my niece? Definitely. A file on integrated intergovernmental negotiation processes? No way!
And then there are the boxes I haven’t unpacked from my last job move in 2007. Sigh.
According to the esteemed Holmes and Rahe stress scale, retirement is a traumatic pivot in life, less traumatic than losing a family member or going through divorce but more traumatic than pregnancy or the death of a close friend (no way am I going to believe that, whatever the experts say).
Still, I feel I should worry.
No paycheque at the end of next month (the pension cheque is small enough to warrant little more than a raised eyebrow – and it’s not coming for at least four months, I’m told). No daily office routine and water cooler chitchat. No Friday leftovers in the cafeteria. And there’s that big elephant in the room: I’m now a senior citizen, bus discounts and all.
I prod and poke myself emotionally, looking for fear and anxiety, terror even. But no. Either it’s not there, or I’ve managed a layer of denial as thick as a cheesecake.
Instead of all that apprehension, I’m finding something I didn’t expect: anticipation.
I have plans and my future feels as wide open as that of a 20-year-old. First, I’m taking a major break for a month by leaving for Sri Lanka less than 36 hours after retirement. A radical break.
And when I come back my wish list has already taken on gargantuan proportions, littered with such items as ramping up certain all-too-dormant skills, finding writing work, finishing the renovation of my dilapidated farmhouse in France, writing a book about my days as a foreign correspondent, and yes, that one inevitable concession to retirement, trading in my car for a campervan.
Because when you live in the heart of Europe, have two dogs and write about travel, a self-contained pet-friendly hotel that moves from place to place starts to make sense.
And because every major project deserves its own hashtag, here’s how I’m going to work it: #newlifein90days
Beginning now, I’m going take baby steps towards a new life. My journey will be both external and internal, because I need to chart the next few steps, think them through, and generally prepare for this new chunk of life I don’t have a script for yet. I might not follow the script, but like all good Taureans I need to have one.
WIFI permitting, each day for the next 90 days I’ll post a picture to Facebook with the hashtag #anewlifein90days, through which I’ll document how I’m fashioning this thing called retirement. I’m assuming that by the time three months have passed, I’ll have a relatively clear idea of my path (***silently crosses fingers***) so if you’re near retirement or wondering what it’s like, please follow along! My way probably won’t be your way but we can learn from one another.
Being optimistic about it all doesn’t mean I don’t have fears.
- Money of course. The salary may stop but the mortgage doesn’t. So instead of waiting for abundance (hard, cold cash) to fall from the sky into my bank account each month, I’ll have to go out and find it. I’ve cut expenses significantly, I have no loans (beyond my house), and I need to lose weight anyway.
- Health is my second big concern. I’ve suffered from high blood pressure and I can’t seem to lose the weight I need to (I find it impossibly hard to say NO to good food). My three weeks of ayurveda treatment in Sri Lanka could help kickstart this.
- I’m a social person and accustomed to seeing many people on a daily basis. I wonder if I’ll become a crabby old lady typing away in my loft…
- What happens to my brain if I don’t have everyday work exchanges? Will it shrivel up and disappear?
- I’ve heard that if you withdraw from the world, your world starts to shrink – your vision narrows, your ambitions dwindle, your expectations diminish. Well, I have no intention of withdrawing. Much the contrary.
The anticipation, on the other hand, feels stronger than the fears.
I’m becoming a full-time travel blogger and writer and will spend the bulk of my creativity on putting words together about the world. This is something I had to squeeze into my time off but no more. At least I can become a bit more prolific.
Of course there’s the travel itself, which I need in order to satisfy those crumbs of wanderlust I can’t seem to brush off my blouse. I need to travel almost as much as I need to eat so Patagonia, Central Asia, Ecuador, the Yukon, Norway, Finland, Namibia, Botswana, here I come. And why not Mexico, Cuba, the USA (the bit between the coasts), Poland, Turkey, Iran (if it doesn’t get embroiled in a religious war), Japan, the Philippines, Myanmar… never mind, just put every country in the world on this list. If I’ve been there, I’d like to return. If I haven’t, it’s time I went.
The truth is, I’m beyond excited.
Life has treated me with great generosity.
I’m immensely grateful for the loving and reinforcing upbringing which led me to jobs some people would pay to have, as a political journalist and foreign correspondent, as a public health and development aid practitioner, and even as an entrepreneur with my own communications firm for a while.
And I’m deeply appreciative of that most elusive yet valuable of gifts: the gift of choice. I may still have to earn a living but I can choose to write about issues near to my heart – the rights of women and girls, public health, human rights, the environment… and the world around me.
Of course I’m apprehensive! Facing the unknown does that. But I’m more excited than scared.
Who knows how I’ll feel 90 days from now but today, I’m good.
#anewlifein90days – won’t you walk with me for a while?