"If you fall off of a cliff without a parachute,
there's nothing left to do but enjoy the breeze
and admire the view on the way down."
--Ralph F. Couey
Copyright © 2018
by Ralph F. Couey
I've been retired now for about a year and a half, and looking back, I can see what a significant time of transition it has been. Northern Virginia had been home for about five years as I finished out my career. While we hated the traffic and the incessant political miasma that permeated everything, I did find for myself a certain kind of peace.
We had family close by, in fact sharing our home for over three years. It was never anything but a joy to have them around, especially the golden hours spent bonding with three of our grandchildren. My work, while difficult and challenging, was a source of great satisfaction. I was privileged to work around some of the finest and most intelligent, dedicated, and committed professionals it's ever been my honor to know. So when it became apparent that in terms of ending that profession, the moment had arrived, it was accompanied by a certain sadness and the feeling of leaving something important undone.
The time between then and now has been filled by a whole new set of experiences. Accompanying my wife on her travel nurse assignments to the biting cold of a Colorado winter, the incredible heat of a summer in southern Arizona, to a delightful sojourn in Southern California. I've returned to the workforce, donning the red and khaki for Target. My body rebelled at the long hours spent on my feet, but eventually adjusted to a certain level of tolerance. The best part of that experience, alongside the extra income, has been the opportunity to converse with people; listen to them tell of their lives. I have with great interest spoken to high school graduates who were ending their childhood and preparing to embark on the first real adventure of their lives, and their first years as adults standing on their own. I've also seen the joy of their parents as they revel in their children's accomplishments, yet feeling the wistful sadness of the knowledge that they've done all they could do to prepare their offspring and must now let go. They will no longer be under their constant supervision, care, and protection and must rely on their faith in these new adults to get them through the coming challenges.
It is time of transition for many, reminding us that as much as we resist it, change really is the only constant in life.
For us, another change is in the offing. Cheryl is in the final stages of landing the contract she has always wanted, an OR assignment in Honolulu. This won't be the standard 13-week job but a one-year commitment, renewable for the next four years. She will finish up her working career in the place she has always called home, alongside her beloved mother.
I have been very much "along for the ride" so the change in scenery will be just another facet of the largely nomadic life we've led. There will be challenges. For one, it will be necessary for me to find employment in a place where jobs are not easily found. Also, my love for the changing seasons will be set aside for the monotonous, yet lovely weather in the islands.
We lived there once before, during my first five years in the Navy, so living on an island is far from a unique experience. But many other things have changed, both in the locale and in us, so while the location is familiar, the experiences will be new. Our adaptability will be put to the test.
There is a sense of finality in this situation, as if we both know that the trail of our working lives will be coming to an end over the next two to four years. We can't stay in Hawai'i; it's simply too expensive, as is our other favorite place, California. Denver, with the large influx of equity refugees from LA and San Francisco, will also be beyond our financial limits. I think the hardest part of this whole deal is realizing that we will be forced by circumstances to finally pick a place to settle down.
We've lived in a lot of places, and found things to love about all of them. But the decision of picking one place and not moving around anymore is essentially unmake-able right now, so we are relieved to put that one off for at least a couple of years. The only decision hanging in the air right now is the disposition of that 6,000 pounds of household goods sitting in storage right now.
Financially, we're in decent shape. Our hard work and discipline over ten years of eliminating debt has put us in a great position, where nearly every penny we earn can be flexibly applied to reinforcing our retirement accounts and rebuilding our savings. If Cheryl succeeds in keeping me out of Costco for the next four years, we should be fully ready to fund our golden years. There are no mansions in our future, but I think we'll do better than a single-wide in Arkansas.
Of course, as all generals know, no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and there is still a lot of unknowns and unexpecteds to be dealt with, but we've faced and faced down some near-disasters in the past and survived. We are confident in our ability to handle whatever comes up in the near future.
Are there things we would have done different? Sure. But we don't carry the baggage of regrets about the past, because the past is...well...past, and can't be changed. We always look forward. It is a far better view.
"Once more into the breach, dear friends," as the Bard wrote. Regardless of what happens, we're still going to enjoy the ride.