Friends, I retired.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
31 years old and retired.
Living the dream? Hmmm.
It’s not like this should have come as a shock to me, this whole retirement thing, but somehow it still hit me like a tidal wave. Most unfortunately I was not wearing water wings, nor was I prepared with an industrial strength pool noodle.
(Because obviously those things would protect me from a tidal wave. Duh.)
I’ve always known that my (former) county only held your spot for 24 months of long term disability, but I never in my wildest dreams thought it would apply to me.
I mean, I knew the details, because, um hello? I have an affinity for post-it notes and highlighters. I do not miss details.
But I always disregarded those details because clearly they weren’t going to apply to me! Everything is turning around! I’ll be back in no time! Go-go-gadget stomach!
In January I got a call that included two of the following:
A. Tears from me
B. Free puppies
C. A unicorn
D. A sternly worded lecture
(I know it’s a tough one, take your time — I never liked multiple choice either)
So apparently when you retire, you are supposed to apply for these things. Also you are supposed to do this months in advance. In fact, at the exact moment that I went out on short term disability, I was supposed to start applying for retirement, ya know, just in case.
Just to review — when I was 28 and lying in a hospital bed after someone jammed a hose through my stomach, that’s when I was supposed to think “hey, I should apply for retirement!”
Good, now we are all on the same page.
But all (somewhat jaded) sarcasm aside, it was the furthest thing from my mind. For the entire duration of short term disability, I was just busying myself with a few medical catastrophes before I would return to teaching. Or at least that’s how it felt in my mind.
I never, in a million years, thought I wouldn’t be back in a week, a month, a year…ever?
It never even crossed my mind. Not once.
Short term disability turned into long term disability, and even when I decided to go back to school and become a health coach, there was an eensy-weensy part of me that thought how great it would be to use all that I had learned with my students and colleagues, and health coach part time while I was teaching.
(Which hello, should have been my first clue that my retirement was imminent. Clearly I’ve been out of the classroom long enough to think for even a fraction of a second that I could both health coach AND teach elementary school. Ha.)
As the most recent months crept closer and closer to May 15th, it was always in the back of my mind, but I kept it there on purpose.
Except when I was filling out the 293,847 papers necessary for retirement. And doing things like deciding who got my benefits upon my death, and if I wanted them to get money all at once or in little “gifts” over the years –> ya know, like a little gold box that explodes with confetti upon opening it, “Surprise! Dead person money!”
Then it happened.
And instead of writing, to heal and process, I fell off the face of the earth.
Yes, post-retirement someone did secretly attach a high speed motor to my hamster wheel, and life has been Chaos with a capital C, but mostly I’ve been hiding.
I won’t lie about it.
(But if you’re responsible for the wheel motor, we need to have some words. I’ll bring cookies if you play nice.)
No, I didn’t write because I was busy.
I didn’t write because writing made it real.
So very raw, and authentically real.
I always imagined that when I retired from teaching, it would be this big, festive celebration. I would have a party, and my family, fellow colleagues and I would lift our glasses to a successful career of teaching, while my husband and I began dreaming about our retirement life of travel, grandchildren, and excitement.
On the plus side, my sweet husband brought me flowers and a retirement card.
(Sorry ladies, he’s all mine!)
So no, this did not go as planned.
And it has been hard.
[I can neither confirm, nor deny, an increase in Sweet Freedom baked good consumption…]
But now the shock is starting to wear off, and I’m not hiding.
I want to swim back to shore.
I’m ready to get back to living.
My outer world has changed, but not my inner world. I can’t let being a teacher solely define who I am and what I believe in, for if it did, then this would destroy me.
And I won’t let it.
I have a lot more living, and loving, and laughing to do.
[Also cookie consumption. Equally ranking in importance]
So teaching was my first try.
I gave it my all, and I had big plans that went so severely off course.
But now I have big plans for health coaching, and my business, and although it’s not the road I planned, it is now the road I choose.
So I’m going to take a big ol’ gulp of green juice.
I’m going to put on my big-kid pants.
I’m going to swim back to shore.
And I’m going to try again.