Tag Archives: bucket list

Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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A Taste of Retirement

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Just before turning 50, I decided that my birthday present to myself was to take two weeks off from work for an easy-going staycation.

Originally, my partner and I had kicked around the idea of a trip to California to celebrate the big occasion, but a lower Canadian dollar made our trip to New York City in the spring a little more expensive than expected. Combined with a special assessment from my condominium corporation, there was a little dent in my cash flow which made California a little pricey at that point in time. After tossing around a few other more affordable ideas, just chilling close to home seemed to be the option that resonated most with me.

It did not take long to find the benefits of two weeks off to take life at a gentle pace, away from the commuting, the meetings and the deadlines. Also, given that I did not have a pressing list of appointments or major home maintenance projects ahead of me, a fairly quiet two weeks increasingly appealed to me. Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures would be good for the soul: good sleep, good food, time to write, fresh air and exercise.

Vacation time kicked off with an exciting overnight trip to Toronto for a chance to see Janet Jackson in concert. I could not say no to the idea of crossing “Miss-Jackson,-if-you’re-nasty” off my bucket list of concerts, especially since I had never seen one of her live shows before but was always a huge fan of her music and videos.

The opportunity to see Janet worked out beautifully as a way of launching the vacation in style while quickly transitioning my mind away from the office. It was a fantastic show, sure to appeal to all loyal fans, in offering a set list of all of her hits and a few new songs from her latest album “Unbreakable”, packaged together in a high energy concert of brilliant dancing, staging and light show. For me, this Janet Jackson concert was definitely worth the wait.

Not long after returning home, the realization that I was on vacation quickly set in. The problem for me is that this sensation usually heralds a nervous energy spurt to start cleaning in the corners I don’t usually have time to get into on a week-to-week basis. But this time, it felt different. Because I wasn’t trying to wedge in a lengthy to-do list in a matter of a few days, I had the luxury of time to just try attacking one or two items per day. This allowed me to keep the rest of the day to myself and to decide in the moment how to spend it.

However, the recent arrival of Ivy the cat Continue reading

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Just for Laughs 2015

Hahaha1This past weekend, John and I took a short road trip to Montréal to join in on some of the festivities of the 2015 edition of the Just for Laughs (JFL) festival.

Founded in 1983, the festival is a major cultural event, showcasing comedy in all of its forms, from leading performers in stand-up comedy to the very best in performance artists, and everything and everyone you could imagine in between. For the festivities, the street in front of Place des Arts turns into a pedestrian mall, a feast for the senses with food and beverage trucks, buskers, mini stages for performance art and any number of things you will only see at a comedy festival. I could have sworn I saw a character that looked like “Polkaroo” from the kids’ TV show… or maybe it was the wine speaking… in any case, there are plenty of sights you won’t see anywhere else.

When we attended Just for Laughs two years ago, we thought that the stars had lined up so perfectly when we had the privilege of seeing a parade of fine stand-up comedians in three gala shows hosted by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Griffin and the legendary Joan Rivers. How could anyone do better than that?

The icing on the cake of our 2013 visit, was a one-woman comedy show starring the fantastic Canadian comedienne Debra DiGiovanni. Debra’s style of humour resonates with me on so many levels with her high energy delivery, her great references to pop culture and her excellent timing when it comes to relaying stories of observational humour.

By the end of that weekend, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing so much. It was a weekend of really great memories while crossing events off our bucket lists… but could JFL top that?
This past spring, when the emails started hitting my inbox, announcing the galas and headliners, it looked like the stars were lining up again for a spectacular season, so we took the plunge and bought tickets.

Our weekend began with an unexpected brush with celebrities as a few National Hockey League players and their buddies were having a grand time, partying at our favourite restaurant, Bâton Rouge.

Then after dinner, with very full stomachs, we hiked up Sainte-Catherine Street 15 minutes to Le Théâtre l’Olympia De Montréal (Olympia Theatre) for another bucket list show, featuring the brilliant Margaret Cho. I guess that buying tickets early paid off as we were only 2 rows away from the stage, and able to get the full effect with every sight, sound, gesture and change in Margaret’s facial expressions. I must admit I laughed until I cried… twice. We both enjoyed her performance and would highly recommend seeing Margaret if the opportunity presented itself.

Our next stop was Continue reading

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The Annual Training Plan

BoardroomAs with every new fiscal year, we begin a new cycle of planning, setting goals and dividing up the work. Along with that, goes the annual meeting with the manager to discuss the work expectations for the next year, including its subset conversation about career development as well as training and learning plans.

Over the first couple of decades of my career, those conversations were pretty easy. I always looked for computer courses to stay on top of technology, courses to keep my corporate writing skills sharp, and courses to prepare me for the eventual career in management. That plan served me very well for most of my career.

However, after 5 times at bat as acting manager, I have concluded that for me, the management ship has sailed and that I am much happier in my normal job, where I get to roll my sleeves up and do a wide array of tasks from the very strategic to the very practical. While I have demonstrated that I am indeed able to manage, deep down I know it is not my thing. I tip my hat to those who do enjoy it and I fully support them.

So what is next on my career path when I only have five (ish) years to go?

Frankly, in seeing the metaphoric finish line in sight for this career, and in deciding once and for all that I do not want to become a manager when I grow up, that conversation seems to get more awkward with each passing year. Now I totally understand how some of my baby boomer team members felt when I was the (acting) manager asking them what they had in mind in terms of a training plan and they would reply, “I’m good. I don’t need courses.”

It is really the first time that I feel I am in that same paradigm, and inflicting on myself a catholic guilt trip for thinking of signing up for a course when it is my turn to see the finish line get closer with each passing week. Continue reading

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Preparing for Competition (…Shows)

When watching a reality competition show do you ever find yourself yelling at the screen, “Have you ever watched the show?” I remember a season of the Amazing Race several years ago in which a couple was eliminated in the first few weeks, and their parting words were, “We just didn’t think there would be so much running involved”. Years later, I am still asking myself what part of “Amazing RACE” did they not quite understand?

Checking out the Ice Bar in Stockholm, site of an Amazing Race Season 6 challenge

Checking out the Ice Bar in Stockholm, site of an Amazing Race Season 6 challenge

While I cannot comment on how people get selected for reality shows, there always seems to be that one competitor or team who does not seem as well-prepared as the others, despite their great spirit and enthusiasm for the show. I guess producers must think that this makes for good TV, especially for the loyal viewers who have watched from the beginning.

The recurring saying on the show Big Brother is “expect the unexpected” and the production team does indeed come up with jaw-dropping twists to keep competitors on their toes. But when it comes to competition shows, if someone was serious about applying to be on the show, why wouldn’t they prepare, practice and rehearse as much as they can?

For example, in 2003, I had made a request for tickets to attend a taping of The Price Is Right and in the months that followed, I recorded every episode, watched each episode attentively, wrote down every product and every price, transcribed them to organized lists, and I studied the lists on my bus rides to and from the office. By the end of the first month, I started noticing trends and products reappearing, so I suspect that studying might have helped, if I had been picked for contestants’ row. Unfortunately, on the appointed date, I did not get there early enough to make it into the studio, so that idea went back on the bucket list. If I was to try again, I would have prepared exactly the same way but would plan to arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Live and learn.

But if I applied to be on a show like Survivor or Big Brother (not likely though), given that both shows have been around for many seasons, viewers know what to expect: Continue reading

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The Positive Side of “That Ship Has Sailed”

ShipI cannot remember exactly when I picked up on the phrase “That ship has sailed”, but over the course of my 40’s, it became one of my favourite mantras as the years went on.

The first few times I heard the phrase from my elders, my enthusiastic young ears picked up on a sense of regret and perhaps even a negative sentiment which remained with me for years. As someone who tried not to live with regret, the expression was banished from my vocabulary.

I believe that as we get older and when we really start wrapping our head around concepts like the transience and the fragility of life, how nothing is permanent and the reality of how we might not have the boundless energy we used to have, we find ourselves making choices.

This is not to say we do not still have a world of possibilities in front of us or the potential to tap into them. It is about being clear about the list of things we really want to pursue in life, and in choosing to reserve our energy for those things that mean the most. You could call it “picking your battles” for goals and dreams.

I find that the option to make choices (and the option to change them if I want) brings a sense of peace and calm. Continue reading

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The Anti-Bucket List

ParallelPark1If a “Bucket List” is a list of all the things we want to do before we kick the bucket, would it not make sense to have an “Anti-Bucket List”, the list of all the things we would be perfectly fine NOT doing before we die?

Here is my top “Top 10” list of things I do not need to do before I kick the bucket:

10- White Water Rafting

No interest whatsoever. Period.

9- Camping

I did it once as a kid. It was ok. It has been crossed off the bucket list. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. No real enthusiasm in trying it again.

8- Travel to a snowier destination than Ottawa

If you have read my posts, you have probably gathered that I am not a huge fan of winter, yet my roots remain deeply embedded in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (under a blanket of snow lasting 4 to 5 months). Obviously, my preference leans toward travelling to less extreme climates, not more wintery ones.

7- Polar Bear Dips

Following the logic of #8, taking a quick dip into icy water… ha ha ha ha ha! No thank you.

6- Times Square on New Year’s Eve Continue reading

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