The holiday season is like a cocoon that I wrap myself in from about mid-December until the beginning of January. I feel safe during that time, protected, happy in a way that I remember from childhood. It’s a good feeling. It has to do with harmony, peace, family, good times, and feeling free (not working). It’s the feeling I try to hang onto once I go back to work and the routines of daily life, because once back, I’m forced to emerge from the protective cocoon. A new year has many possibilities. I’m hoping 2011 will be a good year, a year of possibilities and opportunities. Already today, there were two potential consulting opportunities that came my way and I acted on both of them. They were not advertised as such but I took the initiative to ask about the possibility of working as a consultant. The first opportunity had to do with working on an editorial team for a newsletter published by a scientific association to which I belong. They wanted someone to work for free and considering the amount of work involved, it wasn’t worth getting involved in even though it would have been a good learning experience. The other has to do with providing research services/help in various forms to scientists, e.g. literature searches, manuscript preparation, and so on. This was an idea I had some years ago and that actually led to some consultant work. However, I did not pursue the idea of having my own consulting firm at that time because I did not have enough experience as a consultant. I have it now. So perhaps I can join forces with this organization in some way. Time will tell. I thought it was interesting that my first day back at work, there were two possibilities. And where there are two, there will be more. I’ve got to stay positive and not let myself get dragged down into the doldrums again by my current workplace. That’s easier said than done but I will try.
I had a conversation today with a good friend at work about honesty, among other things. It was not a long conversation, but it got me thinking about honesty in life, in work and in relationships. It’s good to be around people who are good for you. They will confront you in a kind way and they encourage honesty. The operative word in my book is ‘kind’. Honesty implies intimacy and trust; it’s not possible to be honest without them, and they can only emerge and grow in an atmosphere of kindness. Kind people are not preachy nor do they make you feel guilty. It’s freeing to be in their company. They listen without (much) judgment and they don’t need to talk just about themselves. They can be happy for others and they don’t like to play games. I try to be this way to people I love and care about so it’s nice when I feel like I am the recipient of it too. It’s always disheartening to be rammed emotionally by passive aggressive people—people who attack in a way that blindsides me—whether it be to try to make me feel guilty about something or to attack me because they cannot attack the person or persons they really want to attack. But I digress a bit. I realized today that I have dreams and goals (e.g. retiring early), and that I am shaping my life to make them a reality. Even if I stay in my current job, I am clear about my motivations for staying. I need to save as much money as possible to make my dreams and goals come true. I never worked solely with the aim of making money before, believe it or not, so this is something new for me. I don’t mean to imply that I haven’t paid attention to my earnings through the years and whatnot, because I have, but my work life hasn’t been driven by making big money. So it’s interesting that if I was to be completely honest with myself at this time in my life, I am more interested in money now and in being paid well for the work I do, because I have specific goals and dreams. It is exhilarating to realize this.
So what will I do if I retire early? I know already that I won’t be bored. I definitely want to do volunteer work of some sort. I want to spend more time reading, I want to do consulting work, I want to write, to pursue photography, to travel a bit, to spend more time with the people I love and care about. I want to have a more spontaneous social life—invite friends in for coffee and not have to plan everything down to the last little detail. I want to bike and run and be outdoors a lot. In other words, I want to enjoy my freedom after over forty years (by that time) spent in the prison of the work world. If my husband retires at the same time, we’ll be two doing these things instead of one. Working is a means to an end. I’ve said it in earlier posts—but it bears repeating—work to live, don’t live to work. And let it reward you monetarily as well as intellectually. Don’t fall into the trap of working solely for the intellectual benefit and struggling for years on end. It’s possible to combine the two. Don’t accept impossible or unrewarding conditions for too long. That would be my advice to younger people if asked.