August 22, 2023

Ready, Set, Pivot

Ready, Set, Pivot

It was a little hard to believe, but there it was in black and white.

I spotted my name and interview comments in an article about making friends after retiring, but something was unfamiliar. My frequently misspelled surname was right, and the author referred correctly to my previous position. But I was surprised to see my former updated by a latter: I was someone “who now blogs about retirement.” I had become “the retirement blogger.”

As I read it, I felt a sense of lightness. I recalled a similar feeling after hearing from a few readers of my blog recently who thought my musings resonated — just what I’d set out to do.

Is this the pivot I’ve been aiming for?

It’s been a long time since I started my hunt for the path to take me in a new direction after I retired. I’ve since learned that a good fit is more design than discovery, although you can uncover clues. I’ve tried other endeavors, but I’ve landed here, writing my stories about this time called retirement. It suits me; it has potential; and I enjoy it. It’s even in progress.

Why, then, am I looking for the red flag? Why not instead plant that flag and welcome that I just may have figured this out?

Perhaps I’ve spent so much time searching that I can’t stop looking. After all, uncertainty has been something of my theme song for a while. Or maybe the experts have convinced me that the only way to truly challenge myself is to feel uncomfortable, the opposite of what this feels like. Even though I know I’m no writer, I think it’s OK to say I write? Thankfully, I interrupted my incessant mulling to remember how my parents changed their direction in midlife.

After retiring, my father Chester began working with my stepmother running a local tavern. He had an easy-going, shoot-the-breeze personality and liked working, mostly because he loved being with people. But he was ready to retire from the physical demands of his warehouse worker job.

It was a stroke of serendipity that my father found his Where-Everybody-Knows-Your-Name place. I can still recall helping him with a free, all-you-can-eat buffet for the bar — my dad’s style of business development — and my father saying how his work there was a “dream come true,” a dream he’d never even let himself imagine.

My mother Ann had more of a hopeful glimmer of her vision. A homemaker who loved talk radio, nutrition, and a good debate with my Uncle Jerry, she diligently and lovingly raised nine children. During my high school years, she discovered large-type books at our library (she didn’t wear reading glasses, but that’s another story) and started reading avidly — novels, literature, science — whatever she could get her hands on. At the same time, my sister Ellen began her studies at a local college. Ellen’s academic adventures awakened something in my mother, who had to quit high school to work and help support her family.

She and Ellen developed a new bond — not only as mother and daughter but as like minds with a thirst and excitement for learning. So much so that my mother, in her fifties, discussed getting her GED and attending the same college. Sadly, she became ill and died just as Ellen’s second freshman semester began, and she never got to pursue her studies. But to me, my mother had already become a student. While she was always humbly restrained, the sparkle from my mother’s dream was incredibly bright.

Recalling their stories, I noticed no fuss, only a simple and refreshing readiness. They weren’t overwhelmed; they didn’t second guess; they just naturally moved along. How unlike me, and how different from our era of the “self” — from the selfie to self-care, self-awareness, self-labeling, self-knowledge, self-absorption, ad infinitum. They didn’t over “self” themselves; my parents got on with it. And moving along worked. It brought my parents personal satisfaction, not to mention a value to others too. For example, my father received many compliments from his loyal customers for the warm atmosphere of his place; my mother’s resolve was inspiring to her family and something we’ve never forgotten.

I’ve thought about myself a lot during this time. I’ve often worried I was going overboard, but mostly I think it was for the best. Perhaps now it’s time to stop pondering and have a bit of faith.

It looks like my pivot is to humbly appreciate and settle into this comfortable spot, navigate the inevitable twists to this turn, and be ready for new ones. So, with a grateful nod to my parents, I’d say it’s time I got on with it.

Photo: Daybreak at Dune du Pilat, taken by the author

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