Tag Archives: colleagues

The Pre-Retirement Emotions

Over the course of my 33 1/2 year career, retirement always seemed so far off. Even though I took pre-retirement seminars in my 30s and 40s to get a sense of long-range thinking and planning, retirement was really not on my radar… until I turned 50.

It was the awareness of “a half century of existence” that triggered a huge mind shift and a process of reflection on how I wanted to spend the next half century (provided genetics permitted me to follow in the footsteps of my long-living relatives and ancestors).

There were many factors and sleepless nights that went into the decision of when it was time for me to sign off for the last time (… far too many to list in a blog post). However, without really thinking or looking too hard, it was almost like witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. It soon became obvious to me that June 2021 was the right time.

In January, I notified my manager and my colleagues of my plans, and then began the process of completing the stack of forms to formalize the decision. Once the forms were submitted and I received confirmation that everything was in order, that was the moment when I realized I had pulled the metaphoric pin on the metaphoric grenade. The countdown was on!

I don’t know if it was just me, but from there, it wasn’t a gradual trajectory from January to June. Once that decision was carved in stone, a surprising roller coaster of emotions ensued.

I was already prepared for the idea that, much like in the completion of a major project, there is joy, pride and satisfaction in a job well done.

There was also a form of grieving over the imminent change in the routine and the loss of the familiar faces with whom I collaborated for years. I reminded myself to be present and in the moment and to be appreciative for every remaining hour with what had become my extended family of colleagues.

Some days, I truly wished that this chapter of my life wouldn’t end, as I’d knew I’d be dealing with the inevitable sadness and “ugly crying” at some point along the way.

I also lived with a feeling of exhaustion. Buying, selling and moving at the beginning of the pandemic, followed by a list of overwhelming emergency home repairs left behind by the previous owners was a big drain on my energy levels.

Yet on some mornings, I woke up already wishing I was retired, prematurely instilled with the motivation to tackle some of the many projects yet to be completed around our country property.

Similarly, there were times when some of the story characters cohabitating in my subconscious were busy dictating character notes or storylines for future scripts. I took quick notes from those moments of inspiration and tried to shoo away the characters saying, “Just a few more weeks, OK? I’m not finished with work yet.”

There were some days when the weather was less than ideal that I often thought to myself that this would be a perfect day to put on some gentle tunes, make a cup of tea, and park myself on the couch with a good book, the cat snoring on my lap, and just “be” rather than “do”. I reassured myself, “those healing days will be here before we know it” as I dutifully plowed through the work day.

Some days went by at a snail’s pace while others went by so very quickly.

I believe it was the series of “the last time I…” that made the finish line feel closer: the last time I take this mandatory training course; the last time I have to do this report; the last time I have to change my password.

The strangest emotion I felt was disbelief. Because I worked in a very reactive environment, deadlines and due dates often shifted when something unexpectedly hit the fan. After three decades of that reality, I mistakenly established an association in my mind that my retirement date was also potentially subject to a delay or deferral (even though it was completely within my control). As a result, I didn’t dare count my retirement chickens until they were hatched.

When June finally arrived and we were well into the single-digit countdown days, the anticipation was building and emotions were surfacing.

For my retirement party, given the pandemic restrictions, I would have been happy with a few words at a team meeting, but my colleagues went ahead and organized a virtual event that was truly a heartwarming and a perfectly delightful send off.

The ugly cry came later when reading the email wishes from colleagues, present and past. There was a bit of a sense of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in reverse when reading their descriptions of how a gesture on my part caused a positive ripple effect in their lives. With tears streaming down my face, I was left speechless, which doesn’t happen often.

Interestingly enough, five minutes before signing off for the last time, I turned on the “Out-of-office auto reply” function in Outlook, with a message saying “I have retired… please contact… instead”. To my surprise, my emotions didn’t spill over in that moment. In fact, there wasn’t much fanfare in that step.

When it was time to go, I sent my final email to my team mates expressing my thanks for the wonderful virtual party. Again, surprisingly, no gush of emotion at that point. That was when I realized that I had already gone through the full range of pre-retirement emotions over the last six months and that the roller-coaster ride was over. I guess that I was pretty much cried out. Who knew?

Just at that moment, Ivy the Wonder Cat head-bumped her way into my home office, meowing. I turned to her and asked if it was time to go for a walk. She ran downstairs and parked herself by the pet gate, impatiently waiting for me to put the leash on her.

Once outside, we took a stroll around the property. After a few minutes, she sat down in the freshly mowed grass, to enjoy the sights, the sunny day, the perfect temperature and the gentle breeze. In realizing that I wasn’t on the clock anymore (having to return from lunch at a certain time, or to be back at a specific time for a meeting), I decided to sit down next to her and to enjoy the idyllic moment with her.

I was already starting my journey into just “being”.

We both sat there quietly, staring into the countryside, enjoying the tranquility of the moment and the calm that follows the conclusion of a busy but most enjoyable career for which I will always be most grateful.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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What the 2010s Meant To Me

New Year's festivitiesIn recent weeks, not only have we been bombarded with retrospectives from the last year, but as with any year ending with a “9”, we’ve seen our lives flashing before our eyes with scenes from the last decade as well.

One evening, as I was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic (again!), just for fun, I asked myself what were my own favourite moments of the last decade.

It was a fun activity that completely took me out of the drudgery of traffic. My spirits were lifted as I rattled off a list of great memories. When I got home, I took out the iPad and started noting them, one-by-one. In the days that followed, more ideas kept coming to mind and the list continued to grow.

Just like everybody else, I experienced personal and professional highs and lows. But it was because these experiences that I will remember this decade fondly as the one where I experienced the greatest and most significant personal growth.

Despite what I thought was a pretty good tool kit for handling stress, this past decade offered a pressure cooker of situations that tested my tool kit to its limits when anxiety took over. With the help of a psychotherapist, I was able to establish better boundaries which not only contributed to enhancing that tool kit, but also helped to prevent some situations from festering into anxiety in the first place. Continue reading

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Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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