Not sure what planet I was on lately, but I was completely caught by surprise when I realized I could retire anytime or sign up for the state's deferred retirement program (DROP) now! It's not that I haven't been counting my years carefully enough, but I've just been having such a good time doing what I'm doing, so I just would answer "someday" when asked when I was planning to retire. Actually, I wanted to answer "so I look that old?", but I took the high road. Even though I complete the "Information Sheet" each new school year of how many years I taught, have been in Media, was at my current school, etc., it didn't hit me that I just completed 30 years until I sat down with a financial consultant to review some accounts we had.
So what a range of emotions I experienced at the thought of retiring! Euphoria was first, excitement, anticipation....then sadness, anxiety, regret at so little time left. Actually, those last 3 didn't last long, to be honest! I started thinking of the great things that go with retirement: more time with the grandkids, helping my husband with some new life challenges, daily workouts for an awesomely fit 60+ body, more time in my flower beds, etc. Then some of the more work-related things came to mind: not worrying about the annual equipment inventory, not having to deal with school board shenanigans, not trying to preserve my personal days for when I really need them, not stressing over observations, not venting about the way reading is taught, not bemoaning a ridiculous system that penalizes me for the school I've chosen to teach at, etc.
Then I had a major revelation: I can experience both the work and non-work related things now! I can have the same peace and joy and contentment today, rather than wait for retirement. With better management of work activities, I can devote time to my family and self and hobbies now and experience those blessings while I can, well , still really enjoy them! And the work stuff? It's all in my attitude. Not that I want a care-less attitude, but maybe a care-free one would be more appropriate. You know the familiar Reinhold Niebuhr prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". If I'm valuing each day as if it were my last at work, I could focus on the people and relationships that are the most important and enduring, not the petty differences and squabbles that want to rob my serenity.
Something that contributed to my times of reflection was the untimely death of a former principal. I worked for her for over 10 years, shared a birthday (10 years apart), enjoyed strong support of the media program, and generally had a great relationship with her. I emceed her retirement party (I could always make her laugh) and tried to stay in touch. Unfortunately, cancer didn't respect her retirement plans and within 3 short years she passed away. We were all quite stunned and deeply saddened.
So I'm not putting anything off until retirement. My retirement "attitude" starts today. I'm loving what I do everyday, whether it's family, workouts, or checking off equipment. And if you ask me when I'm retiring, I'll have to say "Someday!" Stay grounded, friends!