I think that I retired from the work force some time ago and I never fully realized it.
Fifteen and a half years ago, I unofficially retired. For a year. Some may call it maternity leave but looking back, I see that it was the beginning of my retirement.
My retirement income became that-which-I-could-earn-from home. Thus, my Daycare Business was born. I was a little bit uneasy about this whole idea of full retirement, so I kept my foot in the door at my previous place of employment for ten more years.
In and around the end of that ten year semi-retirement I thought that a change of career was 'it' for me. It was a three year experiment which I am grateful that I tried. But it wasn't a good fit. Nor did it pay the bills the way that my retirement-income-from-home did.
I have now been back in my comfort zone and living a happy little life for well over a year. It took walking away and coming back to it (with a little bit of perspective and some new rules to guide me) to fully appreciate the life that I stumbled upon over fifteen years ago.
It is a good life.
I wake up each morning and I have a purpose. I have become an 'adopted Grandma' figure for five families. With the added bonus of not being asked to take on overnight and weekend shifts (which I hear often comes with the territory when these children have blood ties).
Life without a defined purpose is a hard road to navigate. You must be much more disciplined than I. Give me a day ... and I can waste it like nobody's business. If I had 365 of those days at my disposal I hate to think of the places I wouldn't go. I thrive on responsibility. It keeps me focused.
My retirement dream has been supplemented by an (almost) lifelong dream that has come true. I am getting paid to write. I dreamed this dream decades ago. I said it out loud much, much later. I started putting my words 'out there' (for friends and family to read) and they were accepted. Then I got brave and I submitted my work to the 'real world'. And I have found a small audience that is not related to me. I did it. Retirement goal #1 - achieved.
My retirement status also gives me the flexiblity to spread my wings and grow a little bit. A little supplemental job-with-numbers is helping to keep my brain lubricated and agile. I am helping a friend in the process. This has proven to be a winning combination for me (I probably would have quit this job if it wasn't attached to a friendship). Despite the fact that I do not enjoy leaving the house (my other two retirement activities allow me to stay with in the confines (comfort) of my home). This activity pushes me out the door. Not something that I would do voluntarily. But each time I accomplish this great feat I know that it is for the greater good. I always feel better at the end of those hard (yet easy, once I am actually there) days.
If my retirement was as easy as working from home, I could easily become a hermit. I don't enjoy the idea of the days when I must push myself out of my comfort zone but they are necessary.
Retirement means many things to many people. The easy life. Retirement vacations. Life without a schedule. Pursuing dreams...
Oh, to wake up in the morning and know that the day was yours to do with as you please!! Isn't this (almost) every working person's dream? But every single day? For years on end?
Why save 'living the dream' for your retirement? Maybe the dream is now. You know what they say about the journey being more important than the destination.
I look at the journey that I am on and I see that I have already arrived. I simply cannot foresee a life where I could be more fulfilled on so many levels.
My children are at stages of their lives where they need less of me. This has given me the gift of being able to fill myself up with what I need to be 'a better me'. I still have lots of room for improvement but I don't see that happening unless I keep my life full, challenged and keep the possibility for dreams alive.
It is all about perspective some times. Look at what you do have within the life that you are presently living. I know that my rose-tinted glasses skew my personal view. I know that many people are in situations that are not at all like mine and they cannot see a way out.
But if I can do it (a single parent, living solely on the income that I can provide for myself), you can do it ... we all can do it (SCREAM!!!) ...
... these are the thoughts that I am filling my little preschool crowd with each day. Not a bad way to think if you ask me.