SOME THOUGHTS on RETIREMENT.
No one should be surprised I chose this topic. “Retirement” is something we’ve all heard of, but it doesn’t occupy much of our thoughts and generally seems abstract and far away. The military usually (always?) retires service members long before their useful work life is expended. Most military retirees will tell you there is perspective paradox of always looking toward retirement but then not being ready when the day arrives. It’s a disorienting and often depressing loss of identity and purpose. This time I’m ready (at least I think so). I’m not technically “retiring” from HVAF but from “work” in general.
Some who went before me offered sound advice, “Don’t retire FROM something; retire TO something.” This compels me to craft an answer as to what I’m retiring TO so… just to satisfy the curious (and those gathering information to inform their own future decisions), I’ve devised a simple answer that Donna and I will become “full-time grandparents and frequent travelers”. That’s true but incomplete. The truth is, I’ve secretly nurtured dreams for almost five decades and now I’m afraid to give them voice. I’m not ready to say them out loud and try to explain or justify “the why” behind these private ponderings. I’m not ready to expose them to the inevitable questions and potential ridicule of those who might see them as “ridiculous” or so grossly misaligned with the professional me they’ve come to know that it’s difficult for them to see me doing anything else. This will be the first time in my adult life I won’t be defined (or constrained) by a “corporate persona”. I get to just be “Brian” without a business mask.
I am NOT talking about “adrenaline-junkie-second-mid-life-crisis” kinds of stuff. If you’ve seen the movie Secondhand Lions (Secondhand Lions (2003) – IMDb) there’s a spirit of growing old with a purpose in the characters Hub and Garth McCann I can relate to. I’ll be doing the stuff I want to do (or whatever my wife Donna asks me to do!).
I searched for “retirement philosophy” and found a thoughtful insight from some guy who retired:
Most of us, in or after college, give up activities we love and neglect skills we worked hard to develop in order to concentrate on a ‘career’ that will be the major ‘work’ of our lives. We ‘voluntarily’ renounced sides of ourselves that once were important in order to concentrate on the facets of ourselves that were needed in our career. Retirement can be a time when we return to paths not taken and recover those facets of ourselves that we sacrificed early in life. In retirement we are free to return and explore the writing, music, acting, art, mathematics, woodworking, puppetry, or … that we gave up to became lawyers, bankers, executives, technicians, professors, or …. This time we can do it for love, not money, and with no one to please but ourselves and our audiences. We can be true amateurs and experience the thrills we once felt when doing something we loved.
How do you know it’s time? You’ll know. The trick is heeding that call. It’s easy to hang on inside your familiar comfort zone and hard to move forward into “the great unknown”. Don’t be like a professional athlete who tries to milk out “one more season” – it’s not good for him/her or the team or the fans.
We’re still (I think) a few months away from my departure which will be “conditions-based” rather than time-based. Much of the transition will be getting me untangled from, and Emmy connected to, all the things I’m entwined with plus getting Emmy connected with all the people I’ve become networked with. I’ll also stay busy as a “senior brand ambassador” for the agency and spend more time cultivating new strategic partners and future donors. I’ll also be partnering with Emmy and our Board in defining the proper role, responsibilities, and relationships of “the President” and how that position can best support our mission, our clients, and this agency.