Looking into the future

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I just met with our company’s retirement advisor. That’s not something I’ve ever done before because 1) for much of my life I didn’t think I’d survive to retirement age; and 2) even in the last few years it seemed so far away. I just had my 56th birthday, though, and I plan to retire at 62, so it’s coming up fast now and I need to start planning.

I’ve worked at this company for almost 18 years, and when I retire I will have racked up almost 24 years here. I know from co-workers who have retired that the company has a good pension plan, so I haven’t worried about specifics. When the opportunity to meet with this (very young, very smart) woman this morning came up, however, I found I was anxious to find out what I could.

I really try not to live in the past or the future. It’s been hard the past few years because the present has seemed so difficult most of the time, but still I’ve tried. I don’t want to wish my life away, nor do I want to hang on to the past. I try to stay in the moment – the only thing that’s real. Right now.

Having said that, I think you have to plan for the future as best you can, while understanding that your plans might not work out. I can’t honestly say I saw any of my life turning out the way it has 6 years in advance. Like most young people, I assumed I was in control of my path and I had everything all mapped out: college, career, husband, 2.5 children, nice house in a warm climate = happy life.

With the exception of college, none of that happened. My career has had nothing to do with my college degree, and really can’t be called a “career” so much as a series of jobs in different fields, most of which I’ve enjoyed and have been lucky to have, but not a “career” in the way I thought it would be (award-winning journalist and wealthy famous novelist).

No husband. No children. Both turned out to be a good thing – a choice – but not what I thought would happen.

Depression happened. Nearly 30 years unmedicated high-functioning for the most part, 10 years medicated and much better, and now roughly 7 years post-medication and therapy, doing my best. I try not to think about who I might have been without depression, or how my life might have been different. It’s just what happened, and I’ve survived and that’s all any of us can hope for.

Family happened. My mother and father both were ill for most of my life. I was the only child, so I stuck around to be available to them. So no house in a warm climate. I did buy a house, but it’s in the same small town I grew up in, near my parents, in a place where it snows 8 months of the year.

So it’s been a good life so far, but in some ways, difficult. Same is true for everyone, I’m sure. That’s the human condition. Life can be so good, and so harsh – sometimes even at the same time. One thing’s for sure – you can’t see it coming most of the time. All we can do is try to set up conditions for the best future we can imagine. So I’m trying to figure out whether I can stop working in 6 years.

6 years! I’ve worked – sometimes 2 or 3 jobs at a time – since I was 14. I owned a business for 5 years. I’ve worked in my present job for 18 years, and in the job before that, 10 years. I’m old! I’m tired! I look at retirement as the Promiseland – all I have to do is live that long and all will be well. According the the smart young lady I spoke to this morning, financially all should be well, assuming the stock market doesn’t tank. So that’s something. I don’t have any control over the stock market, or my health, or anything that’s going to happen in the next 6 years, for that matter. I have a plan, though, and hope, and armed with those two things, I march happily ahead.

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