Life prepares you for retirement. Pay attention!
October 15, 2016
I spent most of my life doing what was expected of me. I worked hard at school, did my chores at home and had a part time job during high school. I took piano lessons, played in the band, learned to swim and hung out with my friends. It was a pretty typical life in a small town in the 70’s. I went on to University, got my teaching degree and a music diploma, married my soulmate and had 2 children and a dog-he arrived in a slightly different way than the children.
Everything was going according to plan. That’s when the adventure really began. Teaching jobs were scarce in the early 80’s and we ended up living and teaching on a First Nations reserve west of Rocky Mountain House. What an interesting place to start a career! Although we ended up with teaching jobs in Rocky Mountain House it was a taste of living within another culture.
We live next to the Rocky Mountains so we camped, hiked and backpacked in the national parks. Much of our summers were spent travelling around the western United States and Canada in our tent trailer. We have pictures of the kids straddling the Canada/US border, exploring the formations at Bryce Canyon and being in awe of the bubbling ponds at Yellowstone.
We took them to the UK and Paris when they were 9 and 11 to meet their Welsh relatives. Cathedrals and ruined castles were added to our list of discoveries. As they got older we flew to Mexico and Hawaii to enjoy more tropical climates and ocean life.
Finally they were ready to head out on their own. Both were athletes as well as capable students. Melissa went off to California, Pennsylvania to study sports administration while playing on the golf team. Owen traveled to Cleveland, Mississippi to get a business degree while playing soccer. We wished them well and told them what a great adventure they were embarking upon. How lucky they were to get to live in a new place. It would make them appreciate their home and also get to learn about a new culture. If you’ve never been to Mississippi, it really is different than anywhere else, but in a good way.
We traveled by car to visit them or take them to school and saw most the the United States. When we would stop in a new place for the night, we would ask ourselves, “Could we live here when we retire?” Most of the time the answer was yes. Almost everywhere had some good quality of life. Although we didn’t spend much time in either place, El Paso, Texas and Bakersfield, California did not make our top 20 list.
As I got into my 50’s, I began to think more about retirement. I had a pension I could begin collecting at 55. I had been teaching in the same school since I was 26 years old. My children were settled in jobs in Stockton, California, and Houston, Texas. My husband, Peter, was already retired and ready to start the next phase of our life.
I initially pictured myself subbing at the school a few days a month, volunteering in the community, golfing and gardening in the summer and learning to take better photographs and edit them with software that seems to have a steep learning curve. I thought I might do some presenting at conferences or even teach a few children’s music workshops here and there. The church choir would have a director that had more time to prepare and the group we sing with in Red Deer would have a rested alto who knew her music well in advance of the performances. It sounded like a pretty good life.
Then last year my brother died of liver disease at the age of 52. My dad passed away from lung cancer just before Christmas. His brother and wife were gone by the summer and I suddenly realized that life can completely change in a very short time. Your health is worth so much and I decided that I needed to take advantage of it now. I turned 55 in May, 2016 and retired in June.
But, what to do? That’s the topic of a new blog.