I was raised “old school.” My expectations of life were the same expectations I had observed in the generations before me: Love my family, have integrity, go to school, work hard, then retire. After retirement, bake cookies for the grandkids, entertain family, vacation close to home, then finally, relax and wait on the grim-reaper. What a full life, huh?
Well, not to be unappreciative for the generations before me, but for me, this was just not enough. This retiree’s life took a complete turn from everything I had been taught. You see, in my “old school” world, there was a time frame for active living, probably between the ages of 21 and 55, but certainly not over the age of 60. So during my early years, I did as I was told. I focused on working hard and I made a decent living. However, I now realized that I never really lived. I spent those years adhering to what I had been taught about success. In my world, success meant making money, networking, acquiring relationships and having material possessions which instilled a false sense of self-importance. I never took time to learn “me” until I met some amazing people who shattered every well thought-out plan I had laid out for the final chapter in my life. They weren’t focused on age or social status. They were focused on fun.
The first leap I made was joining a dance class. I went from retirement to ballroom and stepping in 30 seconds. This blew my mind, but it also blew away the stiffness and pain I had acquired from sitting around doing nothing. In this experience, I also found new friendships and unimaginable energy.
My next leap was joining up with a group that focused on self-improvement. This improvement started on the inside and worked its way out. This was the opposite of what I had been taught. In my world, it was look good on the outside, and “never let them see you sweat.”
I connected with individuals who, believe it or not, at my age, taught me about life. I took the time to learn who I really was, and I was like a child learning her ABCs for the first time. After all these years, I didn’t know me at all. In fact, I don’t think I even liked me that much.
As I grew and built on my new-found lessons and activities, God blessed me with a phenomenal mentor! I can’t even count the valuable lessons I have learned from this person. Some of the greatest lessons I learned included self-worth,vulnerability and being of service to others. Out of these three disciplines, I learned the true meaning of gratitude.
I won’t bore you by telling you all of the activities and groups I’m involved with, but I will tell you, I am not at home watching television and baking cookies for grandkids. I no longer consider myself a “senior citizen.” I am a “seasoned citizen.” My philosophy is: I am not afraid of dying, I’m only afraid of not living! Therefore, I focus on living in the present moment and living each day as if it were my last.
Through all the miraculous people that I have encountered over the last few years, I have really discovered the fountain of youth. I realize now that it’s not what we see on the outside, but what flows from the heart.
After three years of retirement and getting to know me, I like the person that I have become. One thing is certain; I could never go back to being the person that I used to be. Retirement is not the end; it’s just the beginning of a new chapter in one’s life. Try it; you might like it!
Jackie is a dear friend … wise, kind, connected, insightful.
She is a retired school administrator; the kind of person you want your child to be taught by. Jackie is a strong advocate for literacy of all age groups and actively volunteers to help people of any age learn how to read.
Thank you Jackie for contributing :)