Bleary-eyed and bone-weary, I sit watching the remaining minutes of 2011 slowly ticking away as I anxiously await the arrival of 2012, more affectionately known as “MY year,” the end of my beginning. This is the year I bid a tender farewell to the first phase of my adult life and leap joyously into the second with arms open wide, ready to embrace all the world has to offer . . .
Ever since I announced my intentions several months ago to retire this coming June, I have been asked almost daily by someone, somewhere, what I am planning on doing after I clear off my desk, empty my files and walk away from a 30-year career.
At first, my response to those questions was something along the lines of “Do? I’m not planning on doing anything–unless you count eating chocolate with every meal, reading every best-seller as soon as it hits the stands, and lying around in my pajamas all day until it’s time to slip into a swimsuit and take a nap in the sunshine.” In other words, my only “plans” were to be as lazy and stress-free as possible. I thought those were some pretty good plans, too–until I started noticing the rather unkind looks others were giving me after such a response. How could I so brazenly announce my intentions to do nothing when so many of them would still be answering the alarm clock’s shrill every morning? It wasn’t very nice of me, and I soon realized it also wasn’t very honest because even I would get bored with such inactivity after a while.
And so I revised my response, “tweaked it” just a little, you might say. My answer may be no less annoying or offensive to those hearing it, but it is at least a little more truthful (whether it is any more realistic remains to be seen). My future retirement “goals” can be summed up quite simply:
I want to read. Now, anyone who knows me at all already knows that I am an avid reader, so announcing my intentions to read during retirement is hardly a revelation. However, so much of my precious reading time in recent years has been consumed by work-related materials, and there will be no more of that–none, I tell you.
I will read for beauty and inspiration and entertainment; I will read thought-provoking prose so elegantly worded that I will re-read entire paragraphs just to marvel in their beauty, and I will read poetry so intoxicating and exhilirating and enlightening that it will literally take my breath away–and I’m not exaggerating. A friend recently introduced me to the poetry of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet from the 20th century, and Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī, a.k.a. “Rumi,” a Persian poet and mystic from the 13th century … wow! All those world literature classes I took in college would have been much more interesting (and much less sleep-inducing) if these guys had been included on the syllabi. (If you’re interested, you can read a few of Neruda’s poems at http://www.poemhunter.com/pablo-neruda/ and some of Rumi’s at http://allspirit.co.uk/rumi.html.)
I want to write. More precisely, I want to write every day (an activity I have been neglecting lately), and I want to write prose that others will find beautiful and inspirational and thought-provoking (except on Fridays, when I hope to concentrate my limited talents on being sarcastic and funny).
I want to eat. True, I already engage in this practice on an almost hourly basis, but I hope to focus future consumption efforts on quality over quantity and variety over ho-hum mundane. You still won’t see beans and mashed potatoes on my plate (the mere thought launches my gag reflex into overdrive), but palak paneer (an Indian dish of fresh spinach and ricotta in a creamy curry) or gai pad met mamuang (a Thai dish of stir-fried chicken with cashews) are definite possibilities–not to mention white chocolate mousse and almond dacquoise and cheesecakes (especially cheesecakes!) so sinfully decadent that mere slivers will bring tears of sweet bliss to my eyes. Ahhh . . .
I want to travel. I have spent most of my life as a homebody (by choice), but now that my children are grown and my time will be my own, I want to explore the world. I just recently returned from a family trip to California (my first-ever trip to the west coast–fodder for another blog!), and that little jaunt has made me realize how much I have been missing. I want to tour the museums and monuments of Washington, D.C., I want to travel the coastal highways and tour the vineyards of California, I want to see the fall colors in Vermont and the sunrise in Key West–and when I’ve seen everything I want to see in my own country, I want to meander through the cathedrals of England, savor gelatos and tiramisu at the sidewalk cafes of Italy, and stand in awe of the sweeping magnificence of New Zealand. And that’s just for starters.
I want to photograph my experiences. I have always been interested in photography, but the daily, constant demands of being an educator, a wife and a mother pushed that interest out of the picture until just recently. With all three of my sons pursuing careers in filmmaking/videography/photography–and with several of my friends sharing their stunning photographic endeavors–my own interest has been re-awakened. For quite some time I had been planning on purchasing a new camera when I retired, but about a month ago it suddenly dawned on me–why am I waiting? Like so many others (especially mothers, I think) I have developed the habit of always delaying personal gratification–someday, when I have more money–someday, when I have more time–someday, when everyone else’s needs have been met–and then I realized that I don’t have to wait any longer, and furthermore, I shouldn’t wait any longer (translation: I’m not getting any younger!).
And so I bought my dream camera, a Canon Rebel T3i, and have already discovered the tremendous joy and soul-feeding stress relief that it can bring. While staging shots, shooting photos (and changing settings and shooting some more), and editing the results, I literally get lost in time–which partially explains the recent neglect of my writing (and all those other boring tasks like cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry that others seem to consider necessary). I still have much to learn, but I’m enjoying the process and hope to eventually incorporate more photography into my writing. (I’ve included a few of my first attempts below–just a few flowers because, especially in the dreary dead of winter, flowers make me happy.)
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to figure out how to get someone to pay me to do all these things so that I can continue to do them. And if anyone has ideas on how to make that happen, I would be happy to hear them! So far, the only retirement disadvantage I can think of is that I am about to become one of those people on a “fixed income,” which might make my goals a little harder to achieve, but I am certain they are still attainable. Last year my New Year’s resolution was to lose 20 pounds, which I did (and then some!), and that accomplishment not only gave me improved health but also a sense of empowerment with the realization that I really can do anything–anything!–I set my mind to. I will find a way.
Yes, 2012, I have been waiting for you, and you will be mine.
“And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself?”
“Your mind, this globe of awareness, is a starry universe. When you push off with your foot, a thousand new roads become clear.”
“There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that mine.
O traveler, if you are in search of that
Don’t look outside, look inside yourself and seek that.”