Because of mandatory corporate retirement age regulations, I left my career just shy of my 70th birthday. My last day was a hot, beautiful day in July, and I was surrounded by my wonderful family, friends, and colleagues who came to fare-me-well. I rode away from the corporate parking lot on a brand new Triumph motorcycle with a borrowed helmet, complete with white shirt minus the tie.
The initial days of getting used to not going into the office did not present any challenges whatsoever. In fact, I navigated the first 100 days extremely well. I am now into my 10th month of retirement and while I have encountered some different experiences, for the most part, I feel like I’ve got this retirement gig down pat. I am busy mentoring a bright young executive. I do editorial work that is similar to the work I did as a magazine editor. I do some speaking, presenting, and I co-teach an adult Sunday School Class as my local church. All-in-all, it has been a very smooth transition.
Recently, however, I realized that I have encountered a bit of turbulence-in-flight, and like passengers on an airliner, I’ve just tightened my seat-belt and waited for it to smooth out. And, I am sure it will. But going through this little patch has been interesting. And, I don’t want to waste any experiences that can teach me how to make this chapter of life meaningful and significant.
I am beginning to feel the reality of being out of the career to which I gave my life, along with the realization that re-entry is impossible. In fact, anything that I do from now on, will be the extra-ordinary, temporary, interim this-0r-that, etc. It’s like I was touring a beautiful place, and have now left it, passing through the gates, and I am headed down an unfamiliar road. It isn’t frightening nor foreboding. It simply leaves me with new feelings or emotions that I’ve never experienced.
Perhaps it’s not that I’ve never experienced such feelings; it may be more accurate to note that it has been over 50 years since I’ve experienced anything similar to them.
Growing up, literally on the road, living in a travel trailer with my family and accompanying my father in his itinerant church ministry, produced similar feelings in my childish mind. We would spend 10-12 days in a location, with my father ministering at a local church for a protracted meeting. There I would meet other kids, and sometimes a budding friendship would begin. Just as that friendship showed its potential, we would leave that place to go to another, and there the cycle would begin again. Forty-eight, sometime fifty weeks of a year were spent this way; until I was not quite 17 when I left the travel trailer to be a freshman in college. For the first time since I was in the 1st grade, I lived in one place, and mingled with friends that I had, or was making.
Fifty years later, I walked away, not so much from a building in Lenexa, KS, as a way of life; a set of constants, and now I am remembering how it felt as ancient feelings awaken from their long slumber in my mind.
I’ll deal with this, just as I have dealt with every other situation in life. If I’ve learned anything, it’s resiliency is the best means of self-preservation. My theme song for getting through these little trough’s of life’s ebb and flow, has been Steve Winwood’s “You gotta roll with it baby.” If you watch the YouTube video, skip that part, but listen to the cool music, and think about that as a mantra. It’s a tune that plays out in a seventh. That gives it the note of unfinished, ever-continuing, open-ended movement.
So when it looks like the old familiar is slowly fading in my rear-view mirror, and I am driving into the unfamiliar territory that unfolds in front of me, I’ll crank the volume up and take those four words to heart…and I’ll just “roll with it baby.”