As I reflect on my life’s experiences, I realize that I thrive on change. Throughout my life — school, work, home, whenever I felt stagnant or unfulfilled, I made change happen — often stepping out on faith alone. From dropping out of college just before my junior year without a plan to finding my true love and husband while between jobs, in almost all cases I am the better for these changes. In every case, I learned from the experience. So, over the last few years, I recognized the feelings that were stirring and knew it was again time to mix things up!
The name “unexpected retiree” is how I have come to refer to myself, not because I did not expect to retire, but because that is the look or exclamation I get from others. I retired at 59, on the very cusp of 60 — early by many standards. It is something I had been thinking about for a few years and talking about with my husband, but not really anyone else. My mum retired at 59 and she literally became a more vibrant, adventurous, fun-loving person. While I vowed not to wait until retirement to enjoy my life, watching her transformation certainly had a huge impact on me. Because of my parents and their friends, I saw retirement as the beginning of something new and good, not another ending on the downside of life.
People, in their surprise, always ask why, what happened, what are you going to do, how are you going to live? Well first of all, I retired from that particular career path and company, not life! Yes it was a big deal walking away from a paycheck, stock and bonuses. While, my husband and I did plan financially for this time in our lives, it was my heart that spoke up and made the decision easy.
I had an awesome Human Resources (HR) career for 30+ years. Part of my job was coaching employees and leaders and the company I worked for supported the coaching discipline and provided great training. I also volunteered for coaching opportunities outside of my daily responsibilities. I worked for people, organizations and companies that I continue to respect and admire. I worked in a few different industries from non-profits to Fortune 500s — through times of abundance when companies were growing; and most recently, economic down turns with constant restructuring and layoffs.
I was emotionally and physically exhausted and, more importantly, I was losing the sense of connection to much of the work I was doing. Then, through my company, I had an AMAZING opportunity to do a six-month volunteer assignment for an NGO in Rwanda —life changed! I immediately started to look at my life, the world and its possibilities differently. I thought this experience would transform my approach to my corporate role. Instead, it continually reinforced my desire for a completely different lifestyle. I wanted to take my passion for coaching, the best part of my day-to-day work that I loved, and create a new career that would allow me more time with family and community. In essence, life on my own terms!
It has been just over a year, and what I walked away from in compensation, has been replaced with the joy, energy and fulfillment I get from being able to build the life I want filled with the purpose, people and experiences that matter most to me.
Over the past year, I received my professional coaching certification, traveled (a lot) , lived in a construction zone (replete with porta-potty) as we worked to open our second Air BnB (can you say “side-hustle”); In fact, as I am writing this, I am sitting in that new house, 1500 miles from home, in gleeful anticipation of dinner with our grand children — priceless!
I am not a financial expert, so I won’t be providing money tips. I am, however, an expert on me and what got me here. It’s those stories I’d like to share. I researched others’ journeys and talked to many people who have gone before me. I have serious intentions for this next chapter (coaching, more time with family, personal development), but there’s a lot of unknown. I hope you will travel with me as my adventure unfolds. I welcome your thoughts, insights and experiences as well.