Life in retirement: Permission to change your mind

I fell on my steps the other day. I had just finished an online meeting and had a few minutes before another one began, which was perfect timing because the person repairing my washing machine had finished at just that moment and I would be able to pay him, see him out the door, and get back to my home office before the second meeting started. It was when I tried to run back up the stairs to get my reading glasses to see his debit machine properly that I tripped on the top step in my haste. And subsequently came to allow myself permission to change my mind about all the things I had over-committed to.

In my efforts to ensure I had sufficient amounts of interesting work projects to fill my retirement, I had quickly found myself with more part-time work than there were days in the week. It’s not like I didn’t do the math, it’s that I knew one of the projects would be ending within a few months and the remaining couple of days a week with a second contract would provide the perfect work arrangement. It was a third project that I agreed to – reluctantly, mind you – but agree to it I did. That’s the straw that nearly broke my back that day on the stairs! That’s a pun, BTW, I was really only left with a few bruises on my knees – but still, the mishap jolted me into a different way of thinking.

Many years ago, I had worked hard throughout college to be sure I had impressive articles published with leading publications, so that when I graduated I was already a journalist. I wanted a portfolio in my hand, with media clips and a full network of people in place to launch my career. I guess I was trying to launch my retirement in the same way – with lots of contracts and commitments already in place.

What I didn’t anticipate was that many opportunities would come to me on their own, when the time was right. More opportunities than I had the energy or interest for. But my own personal work ethic made it nearly impossible to say no. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and at first I truly did think I could fit it all in. I probably could have, but the tumble made me realize I didn’t want to.

Before I went to college and became uber-serious about my career, I allowed myself to change my mind often. I quit jobs when I had saved enough money for whichever backpacking trip I was planning. I even quit a job so that I could read full time! It was only a month or so earlier than I would have quit anyway, as I was off to my first stint at college – which I dropped out of after the first year! I was restless and unsure of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it – but most importantly I was giving myself permission to change my mind.

Well, I’m re-giving myself permission. It’s okay, even wise, to say no to things you don’t want or can’t do. Even changing your mind after you’ve made a commitment is okay – it’s better than watering down everything you’re involved in because you’re spreading yourself too thin. You will disappoint people, but maybe you won’t end up doing a face-plant on your stairs trying to keep all the balls in the air.

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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