The book of Ecclesiastes is perhaps best known for the writings of chapter 3:1-8 with its focus on “a season for everything.” After all, the Byrds made it a pop culture hit in 1965; I was five-years-old when Turn, Turn, Turn came over the airwaves.
But the verses that follow don’t fall off the tongue or memory so easily:
I know that there’s nothing better for them but to enjoy themselves and do what’s good while they live. Moreover, this is the gift of God: that all people should eat, drink, and enjoy the results of their hard work. I know that whatever God does will last forever; it’s impossible to add to it or take away from it. God has done this so that people are reverent before [God]. Whatever happens has already happened, and whatever will happen has already happened before. And God looks after what is driven away.Ecclesiastes 3:12-15 (CEB)
It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post here. The past few months have tasked me with doing those things that need to be done, including those I do not want to leave “left undone.” This little-known verse from Ecclesiastes have taken on new meaning for me recently. You see, I am officially “retiring” on February 1, 2020. I’m not in denial; I’ve been planning and ready for this for some time now. But as the calendar changed to 2020, suddenly the reality hit.
Over the past few months I’ve notified everyone I work with and done the paperwork. I’ve told friends, family, and the many authors and educators I have had the privilege of working with for the past twelve years at CPI. I’ve even been to the social security office (they are really nice and helpful). But as this time begins to be counted in weeks and days instead of months, I now wonder an age-old question: “Who am I?” I began to read Bill Craddock’s Restreaming: Thriving in the Currents of Retirement. I didn’t need to go beyond his preface:
… the idea of retirement is a radical departure from a previous identity as someone who is making an expected and acceptable contribution in the workplace, and even more basic, being “gainfully” employed with an important role in society. The word retirement is defined simply as the point when a person stops working completely. The idea of retirement emerged in the late nineteenth century when life expectancy was increased and pension plans were introduced. Before then, most continued to work until death. Now there are ten thousand Baby Boomers retiring every day and they will be living longer, in better health, and seeking ways to give back to their community in time, experience, and wealth.
While I will be retiring from full-time employment, I will not be stopping “work” completely. I will still be me. My identity will shift from an occupation to a full-time vocation, although I have tried to live them as one and the same despite what the corporate world would have me believe. I like to think of the future as refirement, a word I discovered over fifteen years ago. I googled the term to see if it is still around (it is) and was amused to find (#1 on Google) a 2011 article I wrote when I was the curator for Building Faith entitled Refirement vs. Retirement. God has a sense of humor.
In thirty days, I’m still going to be doing what I love to do. I’m not going anywhere – except for the places I choose to go. There are already some travels on the calendar for fun: a winter cruise in the western Caribbean (was supposed to be to Cuba, but the current administration chose an embargo after our booking), a family vacation to our favorite ranch in Tucson in the spring, and a long-awaited trip to Ireland in late summer. I’ve also already got some speaking engagements lined up for this spring in the dioceses of Southeast Florida, Olympia, and Connecticut.
The ensuing months of my re-fire/tire-ment have yet to fully unfold; I have plenty of to-do lists to occupy my time. There is a pile of books (that I have not edited) waiting to be read (some to be reviewed here), articles and thoughts waiting to be written (and posted here), and files to sort and pack for the Episcopal Church’s Archives. Who knew that I have some documents from task forces and organizations that I have been part of that were not stored anywhere! I’ll have more time to continue my work with the Confirmation Collaborative, a Lay Competency Working Group, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s Way of Love Working Group.
Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle. Marie Kondo
Digging in the garden. Imaginative play with my almost five-year-old granddaughter. Searching my roots while combing through boxes of family photos that go back generations. Volunteering in my local community in ways that have yet to be determined. Purging closets and bookcases. Sleeping in. Stopping to smell the roses.
The future for me may not be a time to eat and drink (at least not excessively) as Solomon (supposedly) wrote in his old age, but I will certainly enjoy the results of my hard work that allows me to choose my path forward. Stay tuned.