A new voice beckons me. She is quite annoying, calling to me in the middle of the night while I try to sleep, yet strangely silent when I ask her to speak. Without discipline, she lives within storylines, ideas, and thoughts, a parade of possibilities eager for exploration.
I retired at the end of the day on December 31, 2020. That evening, I asked Alexa to cancel my 4:30 a.m. alarm for the following day. “Do you want to cancel all 4:30 a.m. alarms?” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied. I had been looking forward to making that statement all week.
The following Monday, I woke up later than usual and texted my former associates, telling them I would be extremely late for work. I still have not arrived and have chosen to blame my absence on mountains of snow.
John keeps asking me if I feel retired yet. I honestly do not have an answer to that question. I am not sure what retirement is supposed to feel like.
I spent the first week of retirement staring off into space. Sometimes there was a strange screen in front of me. I wrapped myself in sweats and watched babbling characters march across this strange screen, immersed in some fictitious event. The cup of coffee laced with dark powdered cocoa warmed my hands. Next to me, the poodle had already fallen to sleep.
That new annoying voice reminded me that I promised not to be the old woman sitting in front of the television set eating Bon Bons and watching soap operas. I told her to shut up; I was too busy to entertain such thoughts. John asked me if I was talking to him. “No,” I said, “I am talking to the poodle.
In my defense, over the course of weeks, I have learned to pamper myself with hot baths and great books, allowing my mind to wander, ponder and reflect.
“You should do something with those thoughts,” the voice says.
After six decades of living, what exactly do I want to say? As I sit in front of the dreaded blank page writers always talk about, I wonder if I need lessons on how to listen.
Frankly, the freedom of retirement is both a blessing and a challenge. After many years of tight schedules, one is left to build a daily structure from scratch. I also am left to find my voice, one that is my own, beyond the dictates of my past. The responsibility can be intimidating, especially if one wants life to matter.
In the middle of the night, the voice comes to life and reminds me of dreams waiting for life, words yet to be written, art yet to be captured. When most of the world is silent, the voice in my head is not. I scribble some notes on the pad next to my bed to guide the coming day.
“Where do I start?” I ask.
“Just where you are,” says the voice, “at the beginning.”