At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retirement application. My mind raced. What was I thinking? I made six figures. I was content. The problem was the dark circles under my eyes, the feeling of missing out on my real passion, and the need to focus on “me” for a change. The decision did not come lightly. I studied my options, requested financial analysis on my investments and read everything I could about the do’s and don’ts of retiring. Millions of people had joined the great resignation in search of fulfillment and it called to me like never before. Life as I knew it would change forever and somewhere deep down inside, I knew it was for the better.
I promised myself that I would make great use of this gift of retirement and would take time each day to focus on self-improvement. I bought a yoga mat. I was obviously prepared. The schedule I crafted in my head included yoga time, prayer time, meditation time, healthy cooking and 30 minutes of walking or biking each day. I promised to return to writing, a passion that had been simmering on the back burner for years. I would not waste a minute of retirement.
The first day as a retiree felt like a vacation day. Work matters lingered in my head, but I knew to keep them there and not call the office to offer unsolicited advice to people who were well trained to move forward without me. My job now was self care, so I mounted my Peloton bike, updated my subscription that had quietly lapsed during years on nonuse and immediately became self-aware that I did not own any proper exercise clothes like the instructors on screen. My ten year old cotton sweat pants were a sad reminder of my neglectfulness. Preparing to ride included clipping in my biking shoes which left my feet securely attached to the bike. This is a great feature for those with the ankle strength and agility to easily unclip from the pedals. Sadly, I had neither and my anxiety level increased and kept me from truly appreciating the 70’s ride with Fleetwood Mac songs motivating me to make it to the 20 minute mark. At the eleventh minute, I managed to get one foot free and lay on the floor with the other foot still clipped into the bike, Googling, “How to remove foot from Peloton”.
My attempt at exercise demanded a reward and I reached past the week old kale in the refrigerator and grabbed a handful of Hershey’s Kisses perfectly chilled at 38 degrees. The phone rang and it was work. I have to admit, I was excited. After catching up on all news that no longer involved me, I grabbed the yoga mat and went outside. I had seen those beautiful people at the lake doing their downward dog poses early in the morning and I was determined to join their ranks. I rolled out the mat and stretched out as if taking a Kindergarten nap. The position was familiar and I closed my eyes, taking in the yin and yang that surely must be surrounding me. I remembered that breathing was important and began a series of deep inhalations, counting to three and visualizing the oxygen pushing goodness through my veins. As comfortable as this little spot in the world was, I knew I had to move and attempt some of the few yoga poses I knew. After a warrior pose and stretching my arms to the sky because it felt like something I should do, I returned to my Google searching to find basic yoga poses. I found several, but I also found a coupon for 20% off a robot vacuum cleaner and I sat up on my mat and took deep cleansing breaths as I jumped to Amazon Prime and ordered a new vacuum with one click purchasing. Yoga was fun!
An article popped up on my phone that said the ability or inability to stand on one foot for more than ten-seconds was a good mortality predictor. My mind raced and I had to try it. I stood tall on my mat, lifted one foot and attempted to place it against my other knee. This was not possible so I gently pushed it again my other leg, about calf high, and immediately fell over. My years of retirement seemed to shrink before my eyes. I grabbed a nearby chair and balanced myself as I focused on standing on one foot, defying mortality. The Fleetwood Mac song played in my head, “I climbed a mountain and I turned around…”. I was doing it. I was extending my life by years as I stood outside on my yoga mat, in a one footed balancing act.
Two yoga poses and one robot vacuum later, I moved to a wooden rocking chair that sits on my porch. It was my mother’s and she used to sit there each morning for her prayer time and silently called out everyone’s name. Prayer time was on my schedule, so I would carry on that tradition and took my place in the prayer chair. I have to admit, I have a secret problem that I have never been able to close my eyes for long periods of time unless I’m sleeping. I’m that girl who looks around the church during prayer while everyone else is looking down, deeply engaged in their thoughts. God knows my mind races and I know He understands my issues. I sat in my prayer chair, thanking God for my family, my health, my home and my job. It was at that moment I realized I don’t have a job and my eyes flew open again. A quiet panic moved through me and the only known cure was another handful of Hershey’s kisses. I raced to the refrigerator, threw the wilted kale in the trash, downed the chocolate and made my way to the couch where I would review my retirement estimate once again.
The monthly annuity seemed small compared to what my salary had been, but I was comparing apples and oranges. I would no longer have many of the big expenses such as Social Security, Medicare, higher taxes, and more. If I did the math different ways and considered the dollar amount of what I would no longer have to pay, I was now making somewhere between $40,000 and $80,000 a year to stay home and do bad yoga. The swing in calculations was troubling, so I abandoned my search for determining my comparable wage and mapped out a plan for the next day of retirement. With my new ability to stand one footed, it was going to be a long retirement, so I had to make good use of every minute of it. At the end of the day, I stood strong knowing my decision to retire early was the right one. Tomorrow would bring day two of retirement and there was a whole world out there waiting to be explored, enjoyed and celebrated. 57 seemed just the right age to begin.