In 1992, I became single for good. That was a good decision for me, but it came at a price. One cannot live as cheaply as two. That is just a cold, hard economic fact. One of the implications of my singlehood and single-income has been that putting off retirement just made good financial sense. So, here I am. I’ll be 70 in January, and on June 30 I will officially retire and begin living the “fixed income” life. The University System of Georgia has been my employer for the last 17 years. Thankfully, unlike the relatively small nonprofits that comprised my previous career, USG takes good care of their employees when it comes to retirement. Consequently, my fear of living in a van down by the river has been replaced with the excitement of buying a home in my native Florida.
On one hand, I really wanted to live closer to the Kennedys (my daughter’s family) in my retirement. However, Ginna was smart enough (and knows me well enough) to know that I would not have been happy living in East Tennessee. I did that many years ago, and Ginna is right. I need warmth and sunshine, and at least some liberals around me to be happy. East Tennessee has warmth and sunshine some of the time. But I need it all the time. Additionally, I don’t discount the fact that Ginna wanted me to be in a beach town so that she and Andy would have a good place to visit!
I digress, as usual. So, that light at the end of the tunnel has been cause for much soul searching and deliberation about what is next for me. My health problems are well under control and I feel good. I’ve never been a high-energy person, so that hasn’t changed (advice: embrace who you are). In other words, I won’t be trying to keep up with Eileen Coogan, Rob Raines, or Upendo Shabazz, now that I will have time on my hands. However, I know I don’t want to sit around and do nothing. Do I work part-time? Do I volunteer? Do I take up a hobby…something, indecently, I have never had? Of course, in any small Florida beach town, there is always the option of shuffleboard (that was a joke).
I watch my retired friends and see lots of travel, lots of full-time work, and lots of fun stuff with grandchildren. I like to travel, but on a fixed income, lots becomes a relative term. I don’t want full-time work. I have done that for the past 50 years. My grandchildren have fur and four legs, so I can’t be taking them to Disney.
A friend and her psychologist husband have me reading a book called Journey Into Retirement. It is helpful, but in the end, you have to answer a lot of questions that I don’t have the answers for just yet. Nonprofit is all I know. It is who I am (I know higher education, but don’t consider myself a higher education person, and have no interest in pursuing that). I was raised on nonprofit and ministry. But, I’m tired. I don’t want to do something where I take it home and worry about it. I sure don’t want a board!!!!! I want to do something that brings me joy, energizes me, and makes me feel like I am still adding something to the big picture, even if on a small scale.
This is beginning to sound like a grab for sympathy. It isn’t. It is thinking out loud in front of people I love and trust. So, my next assignment (should I choose to accept it) is to craft and nurture the next phase of my life.
As Jimmy Buffett has said, “Some of it’s magic. Some of it’s tragic. But I’ve had a good life all the way.”
I’m counting on freedom and not an oncoming train!