One year into early retirement and I am learning things that surprise me. And it’s exciting. We shroud retirement with statistics like “death after two years.” I watched my father diminished with the replacement of “Dr. Dyck” with regular ole’ “Peter” or Pete.” And yet, I am the lucky recipient of the early retirement buy-out, a pension from having one government employer, a husband who is fun and the health that allows early retirement to be equated with freedom and time.
I decided that I was not having enough fun as a covid principal and decided to take early retirement quite suddenly. Perhaps it has something to do with the coming of spring and the desire to break out of the sameness of winter. It was much like the year that I decided I was going to go to Toronto for my second year of university.
“You mean this coming year?” was my mother’s response.
It was exactly the same response of my husband, Brad. And yes, anything can happen quite quickly once you’ve made a decision.
My first inclination was to travel. It was a good thing because my daughter and her partner returned from Taiwan and needed to isolate in our home. COVID restrictions kept us close to home initially. Off we went to Whistler, which feels like a second home. Years of generousness of friends, allowed us regular family ski trips to Whistler when our kids were young. Thanks, Joe and Yvonne! Our next journey took us to the smoke and scary fires of Penticton where Alison and Al welcomed us into their home. A different face of the interior than we are familiar with but as always, there were fun times to be had with Alison. I also got to my favourite winery, Serendipity, to drink wine with my favourite wine maker, Judy! And Brad and I went out into the world of wine in the interior with our friends, Dave and Catherine. We made a fun discovery, The Hatch. So much fun! You can find Dave on YouTube where retirement and life in Kelowna has immersed him into everything wine. Our next stop was White Rock where Linda and Dave welcomed us into their home. First time we’ve actually explored White Rock beyond a day trip. On foot. By bike. By car. And from the deck. Nothing like living in the home of an artist! David’s “Dandelion Pieta” has inspired much of my writing about my family and ponderings about myself.
Of course, I could not be home at the beginning of school in September, so off we went to Victoria to bike the Galloping Goose Trail. I was shocked to discover that Victoria was filled to the brim with people just enjoying their lives. In September! Unheard of in my line of work. We went out for dinner, not with one, but two couples of friends who happened to make their way there. I even had the time to catch up with the woman who I met on a flight to Toronto years ago, who owns my favourite Tea Shop, Silk Road Tea. Then off for more fun in the calm of Salt Spring Island. More hospitality. Lots of turkeys and hiking. Thanks, Rod and Uni.
COVID did prevent our trek to Texas for my nephew’s wedding but alas, not the trip to our family cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I could drive across the border because I was born in Alhambra, California but Brad had to fly to Portland and be picked up. COVID turned Portland and most places into scarier places with more homelessness and abject poverty, but the beauty of life was reflected in Silver Lake. It was my first time to be in The June Lake Loop in fall. My friend, Judy, braved the journey to join us and the snow held off until after she arrived to celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary. Yes, we were children! We did lots of splitting wood from the side of the road, but I was grateful for the new addition to the cabin with the forced air heat. Brad and I loved the quiet of this time of year and of course, Brad was grateful for fewer mosquitoes. My aspirations of finishing my first novel did not play out but I certainly had a chance to read a lot. We also participated in the “Leaves on the Loop” event and met some very friendly locals. Thanks to my Dad for ensuring the cabin did fall into the hands of all three of his daughters.
Back home in Vancouver, I golfed more and got better. I discovered that I have a special relationship with my Big Bertha that cannot be replaced. That driver has come to represent my mother’s belief that I could do anything I set my mind to. Funny that she would buy me the club even though she never golfed a day in her life. Big Bertha has also become a mark of my resilience in the face of adversity. One of my very effective coping strategies learned from a nurse I golfed with at Musqueam Nine’n Dine.
For the first time in my life I bought a seasons pass at Whistler and brand new skiis. And my skiing improved. I was delighted to be able to have the whole family together in one city (albeit for a short time) to ski / board. Our happiest as a family is when all four of us are skiing and boarding together. I am so delighted that Justin learned to ski this year and is a particularly quick study. Contrary to all indicators, Brad enthusiastically bought another time share that promises Whistler ski time with family.
I also did what many retired principals do, I started an Educational Consulting Company. For me this set me on an uncharted journey of discovery about myself, education, consulting, and opportunity. I learned that my advice as a consultant does not need to be taken. It just needs to be paid for. I’ve learned about “scope creep” and the demands on private educational institutions and the possibilities of non-profit societies. I’ve learned I can’t count on my position as a principal or zestful enthusiasm to generate funds for worthwhile projects like Wild About Vancouver. I’ve learned about how COVID has changed the landscape in event planning but that those challenges can be overcome. I learned that there are many opportunities to make a meaningful contribution.
I now have far more ideas of how to fill my time and how not to fill my time. I’ve learned that having your own business means that you can do work from home, from a deck. from the beach, from a chair while getting a pedicure, and from the Sierra Nevadas. I’ve also learned you can go off to Portugal and Spain for a month and not think about work at all. I’ve learned that Brad and I still find a certain thrill and sense of accomplishment in climbing hundreds of stairs each day. That we love the smell of fresh orange blossoms in Seville in the springtime. That we still have so much to experience and learn. And of course, that we need to go back to Porto and Seville and lie on the southern beaches in Spain and Portugal when it’s much warmer.
I am surprised that the year has flown by. I can look passive aggressiveness and aggressive aggressiveness in the eye and not flinch. I now have the luxury to identify it and step away. For the most part, I spend time with the people that I want to spend time with. The lifting of COVID restrictions even allowed my daughter and I to go down to Sandy and Lee’s Baker cabin, another home away from home. I am doing the things that I want to do. Although I still haven’t disciplined myself to finish even one of the books I have floating around in my mind, I will. This year. My friend, Omar, and my writing buddies on Twitter, have given me renewed inspiration.
Dandelion Dreams is the section of my blog devoted to myself as a writer. The name is inspired by my favourite piece of art by David Klassen. It was previously known as Sunday’s Child. Too many of us were born on a Sunday.