Our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.
– William Shakespeare
In September 1979, I started what I knew was going to be a temporary job in the Aerospace and Defense industry as a French/Spanish/English translator and clerk/typist at Ford Aerospace in Willow Grove, PA. After graduating from a state college with a BA in Literature and Language 3 years prior, I struggled to find work that would pay my rent. My Great Aunt Dolly, knowing my plight, contacted me about an entry level job at her company that would use my language skills. What I didn’t know then was that my temporary job would lead to a 38 year career that took me to foreign lands that I’d only heard of in school books and introduce me to many fascinating people and technologies. Flash forward to today, I recently made the decision to “retire” from this career.
According to wikipedia, Retirement is a relatively recent concept. Previous to 1889, when Germany first introduced retirement, people worked until they were ill or died. In most western countries today, people work until the age when they are eligible to receive a pension or payment from either the state or employers in return for their years of work. The right to receive post working age compensation while societies’ citizens enjoy a higher, and healthier life expectancy than when retirement programs were originally conceived is at the heart of budget debates in many western governments.
I don’t use my French/Spanish translation skills much any more. However, it was French and Spanish words for retirement which caused me to reflect on my career and what it means to retire. Retire comes from the French word retirer which translated means to withdraw (to a place of safety or seclusion).
Although my chronological age made me eligible to retire a few years ago, I certainly wasn’t ready to withdraw into seclusion. Sure, like many women of my age, I have some age related physical ailments. And, I can’t keep up with younger folks when it comes to computer and social media tech trends. But withdraw into seclusion? No Way! This mind set and a good income kept me working in my day job.
Recently, I began to reflect on how I have been living my life since I was first offered the option of “early retirement” several years ago. It was about that time that I began to go inward. I was no longer as interested in travel as I was in earlier years. In my downtime, I started studying yoga more deeply. Yoga means to connect or unite. While I went inward, I did not necessarily go to a place of safety or seclusion. I began to notice a different connection to people and the world around me. I would sometimes sit or walk (in seclusion) outside. I noticed and connected with nature. Connecting with friends on a one on one basis was important to me. Still, I continued to be bothered by this concept of retirement if it meant withdrawal to a place of seclusion. So, I continued to work because I was getting a pay check.
Last month, my husband’s maternal Puerto Rican family hosted a family reunion in Chicago. The host was retired. I saw a picture in the family room honoring this man’s career. On the photo which seemed to highlight events over his career was the word Jubilacion. The word made me smile. It seemed like a happy celebration of a successful career. Rather than a withdrawal, it was something to look forward to with a sense of joy and fun. Several days later, another member of our Puerto Rican family sent out a Ted Talk by Isabel Allende entitled How to Live Passionately No Matter What Your Age. In this talk, I learned that a Spanish word for retirement is Jubilacion. I chuckled to myself thinking that as the 20 something Spanish/English translator version of myself, I never had to think or use the word retirement. In fact, I felt sorry for some of the older people I worked with who were clearly unhappy in their jobs and were just holding on for retirement. I remember thinking all those years ago that I never wanted to be unhappy and retired on the job.
So, I don’t know whether it was learning the Spanish word or my deepening sense of connection to nature and significant people in my life, but I decided I was ready to explore Jubilacion. I notified my current employer that I’d like to withdraw from my contract at the end of this year. I’m looking forward to more connection time with others and the natural world, to Live Passionately, and enjoy what life still has to offer!