This year as in every year, my birthday rolls around on March 1. Same date, different day, bigger number. We all get there, each and every time, unless we die first.
I'm noticing a difference this year, though, since my birthday is now tied into the day I retired from work. A year ago today, I walked out the door of my workplace for the last time. It's not a place you go back to visit your friends, as my previous jobs were. A locked facility is just that. No keys, no
dropping by. Those keys could cost you $300, so you can bet I turned them back in. And on that day, February 28, 2013, I never wanted to go back.
Just as I planned it, a few days after retirement I left the shores of the USA for an extended trip around the world, visiting friends and family in just about every place I went. After a little introspective the previous several months, I realized that I needed to do something big when I stopped working, to celebrate, to ease into retirement. I had no return ticket, so I planned my time based on who I would be going to see next, and when.
I discovered new friends along the way, in flashy cities and quiet villages, on hot, sultry beaches and in the arid dessert of Morocco. I sat in Paris cafés, wandered through champagne caves in Champagne.
So many places, so many sights and sounds and smells.
I journeyed to the land of my family, sat in the same room with Irish folk who could rattle off stories of our old ones. I stood on the ground of Caherboshina, Ireland, where my mother's great great grandfather farmed, before coming to America with his wee family. I never felt more appreciative for the love of people and the land than I do now, that I learned then.
While I didn't think about it at the time, I've come to realize that people who said to me that it 'was the trip of a lifetime', they were right. The timing of that particular holiday, just on the heels of retirement, a few days past my birthday, couldn't have been better.
My life is now measured differently than it was prior to retirement. It's not measured by the sound of the alarm in the morning, or my 'days off'. Because every day is a day off. If I don't look at the calendar, I can forget what day, or date, has arrived. My time is now measured by what each day brings to me, and what I give to it. I'm no longer consumed with fear and loathing in a feeling it now as I go back there. Terror rolls my stomach when my mind strays near to the source.
So I choose to not go there. Instead, I think over the past year as a series of lifetime events. Baby showers, new babies, Dad died, class reunion, birthday parties, new love, cherished friends who continue always to be part of my life. Day trips to the mountains, to the beach, bike rides, hours
painting, or writing, or reading. Time for me to do as I wish. I've been told, of this time of my life, 'you've earned it'. I never really thought about it in that way, and after a year, if I haven't really earned it, I'm sure as heck enjoying it.
Close ties to my family is one of those things I've not taken for granted, I love them and I'm so grateful to have them all. Marrying and having babies while I was very young assured me I would always have family around. As my kids have always told me being 'the best Mom in the world' helped make it so. I basically moved from my
childhood family to one of my own. I couldn't be happier with all of my extended and natural families, my loved ones, friends as well as family. I'm sitting here, cuppa tea in hand, dawn awakening outside a stormy window, the embroidered cloth on my table whispering Travel East, Travel West, After All, Home is Best.
It might be best. Though I have to say, I can't wait to get on that plane again and be carried off to a new land of opportunity. The opportunity to see trees I've not seen before, flowers in bloom, birds I've never seen and people I haven't yet met. The dry erase board across the room lists my every day 'things to do': paint the pavers, plant an orange tree, re-paint the gnome, write, paint, edit those photos, smile.
And today, as two of my best friends are on the road to join me for my birthday, that smile is just where it should be.
If you've retired, I'd love to know how your first year was, what you noticed. What you expected it to be, how it all worked out.
If you're retiring soon, what are you looking forward to??