Thursday, September 8, 2011

Jumping off the cliff...

At this moment, I couldn't possibly be happier. But then, this last year, the joy I feel in life has been steadily building. I know I am extraordinarily blessed and the gratitude I feel is what seems to feed the joy.

But, happy? Happy, like sad, is circumstantial. I don't expect to be happy most of the time. I expect that things will break, I will have aches and pains, most of my big dreams probably won't come true. I feel sad for the loss of friends and relatives, getting my feelings hurt or hurting the feelings of someone else. I expect to experience sadness now and then.

For me, happy is dancing with friends in Zumba, tap, ballet classes and performances. Happy is going out kayaking with a friend or walking through the woods in snowshoes. Happy is sharing a meal with everyone I love at the table.

So, why am I suddenly happy?

I'm happy because I woke up Tuesday morning and decided it was time to retire from my job. Just like that!! I went into work and logged onto the Social Security website and filled out the application for benefits. Then I called Rick in Human Resources and told him about my decision and asked for help cashing out my 401K. He asked me to send an email explaining my resignation and wished me well.

Yesterday, Social Security called me to confirm my application, tell me how much I'll be receiving, and to give me the news that my first check won't arrive until December 21st. (Yikes!)

Knowing there's going to be a gap before my first check got me to thinking that I might want to be more proactive about cashing out my 401K. I contacted the company that manages it for us and set the wheels in motion. The application they emailed me, requires my husband's signature to be notarized. As luck would have it, the Town Clerk's office was open tonight, so Danny and I met there and finished the paperwork. I was delighted to learn that the Town Clerk doesn't charge for notary services! All that remains is to fax the application to the management company in the morning. It all seems to be falling into place so my mother would say, "It was meant to be."

Money will probably be a little tight, but I think it will be manageable if I'm smart about it. The things I love the most are either free or very inexpensive. I will be no poorer than a college student and those were some of the best years of my life. In fact, I may reprise them a bit by finishing my masters degree.

I can say, "Yes!" now to skiing with teacher friends during school vacations. I can say, "Yes!" to my husband when he wants to drive to Florida to see the grandchildren. I can say, "Yes!" to going to demonstrations in Concord. I can kayak, snowshoe, x-country ski or just sit on the deck and read poetry. I can finally make my house a home by decorating it the way I want.

The days of my freedom stretch before me...

Of course, I know it will get busy with all the mundane tasks of life; doctors appointments, car inspections, income tax returns, but I won't be wasting vacation or sick days to take care of my errands. There won't be any vacation or sick days. There will only be NOW.

I can finally write that book about my brother, George.

I should probably be nervous, but I'm not.

Most of all, I think about my daughter, Liese, who has been following her bliss. I want to be just like her when I grow up! It's time to follow my bliss again. I was blissful when I was a design engineer and in the middle of building the first laptops and pen computers, but those years are long gone and they're not coming back. Of course, I didn't know I was blissful back then. I thought everyone felt that kind of passion about their jobs. It wasn't until it was gone, that I realized the difference between a good job and one that feeds your soul.

In those "dry years" when I was just a cog in the wheels of mainstream technology, I was fortunate to find other sources of joy and inspiration unrelated to my paying job. I thank all the people who helped me discover that there is more to life than being well paid. I learned about other kinds of "success" that can't be measured in dollars.

So, I feel well-equipped for this next stage of my life...even though I simply "took the plunge."

And, in this moment, I just couldn't be happier.

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