Lessons in Retirement: Let the opportunities come to you

It was nearly a year ago when I stood up from the conversation when I first informed my boss that I was going to retire and I walked to the staffroom to make myself a cup of tea. Funny how tea can both wake you up and calm you down! I was certainly searching for calm after that heady declaration. The tea bag I chose had a tiny folded piece of paper at the end of the tea bag string – many likely do, but I’ve never taken the time to actually look at them. It was a little note that read: Let the opportunities come to you.

It was a bit intoxicating to read that in that moment. It’s a very yoga thing to say and it was most pleasantly received at that particular point in time. Actually, it affected me so profoundly that I pulled it from the end of the string and it’s now taped to the wall at home, right beside my writing table. I’m trying to do just that and, inexplicably, opportunities are sort of sauntering my way. It’s not like a meteor shower with multitudes of shooting stars of opportunities that are whizzing brilliantly past, but a few opportunities have been placed before me. Some of them are shining with potential. All of them, I know, are a result of my connections after years of hard work and service to my job.

Part of the transition from my career is a commitment to a few days each week at my old job, just until the summer, to finish off a few last projects for them. That leaves five other days each week to be open and welcome for opportunities to come to me, I figure, and some, indeed are finding me. A couple of invitations to sit on various boards, some very enticing contract communications work, this weekly column… Staying on a teeny bit longer at my job hasn’t seemed to detract opportunities from coming my way. What it has done, though, is confound the people closest to me, along with my peers in the office, who just celebrated my retirement. They collected money for a retirement gift and they were watching in great anticipation for the leap into the netherworld that they had hoped to witness.

And… yet… I keep showing up in the office, taking the same exact spot at my old desk and riffling out the same work as I have done for years. Year after year. Yadda yadda. This is retirement, they ask, their disappointment more than evident. It was the same consternation that riddled my parents’ lecture when I was 10 and they discovered I had snuck out the basement window in the middle of the night to get a slurpee at the corner all-night shop. They expected better from me.

Things became particularly bewildering for those around me when my birthday arrived. I know a lot of people and I am honoured to say I get lots of greetings and well wishes on my birthday. This year everyone, to the person, mentioned along with my birthday greetings that they hoped I wasn’t working that day. Busted – the newly retired person was, indeed, working.

I like working – and I have many more ideas to work even more. Is that wrong? I think not, given the invitations from people who are looking for someone with the skill, energy and insight that come with the newly retired. There’s win-win potential around ever retired person, I figure. We are used to working hard while maintaining a household, meeting deadlines while cutting a rug at all the social events, pushing for corporate innovation while raising a family, and keeping everything within tight timelines and budgets. We should be running the nation! Or at the very least, we should be considering the opportunities that come to us with a determination to ensure the greatest possible impact for the places we choose to be sharing our skills.

Sandy Bexon is stepping into retirement after over 35 years as a communications professional, reporter and writer. She lives in Red Deer.

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