When we started this blog at the beginning of 2016, Roque and I had 270 calendar and approximately 188 work days until our planned retirements. This blog was started then to chronicle some of the thinking, planning and preparations for the overland road trip along the Pan American Highway, from DC to Alaska through Mexico and Central America to Panama, Central America, where we intend to relocate as expatriates or, in Roque’s case, as a repatriado. Our retirement date was thus established for November 1.
As we all know, life does not always follow the schedules and routes that we so carefully create and in our cases, this is not always a bad thing. Roque was able to retire earlier than we originally expected and he left his employment in mid-August, filling us both with a huge sigh of relief given the considerable trials and few tribulations of his last year of work. Freed from the daily workday requirements, Roque turned his efforts during most of the last month to packing, sorting, errands, and some other family related obligations which has made him busier than he was when working. Meanwhile, I continued to work and we both looked forward to the day when we would both be retired and able to attack the long list of things that need to be done before we take off on the trip.
When I received some new information just before Labor Day that made it clear that I, too, could retire earlier than November 1, it surprised me how initially unsettled I was about chopping off a month of work: I wasn’t sure that I was “ready” and I felt obligated to stick to the retirement date that I set with clients and my office. Roque was his usual supportive self, not pushing or prodding but content to make sure that I did what was right for me.
We spent the Labor Day weekend camping in Virginia and had another opportunity to set up new gear and to see how it would work on a daily basis. In the meantime, I spent the weekend enjoying our beautiful camp site, the company of my incredible husband and mulling over the decision of whether to retire a month earlier than originally planned. In the end, as I am sure you have already guessed, it was a no-brainer decision to leave early. After all, this gives us an extra month to dispose of our household and pack for the trip and gives us the beautiful and usually mild month of October in which to schlepp what I’m sure will be many trips to donation centers, the landfill, and related places.
Once the retirement papers were filed, I had a short 15 working days left in my career owing to some vacation time that needed to be taken but this was more than sufficient to finish some lingering projects, begin the process of saying my farewells, and ensuring that everything was scanned, copied, mailed, printed and saved for when I leave the office where I have worked for nearly 30 years. Yes, I am a dinosaur; one of those vestiges from the past – an employee who joins a company (in this case the State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General) and remains employed until retirement. I stayed for many reasons, most of which relate to the satisfaction of the work that I have done with the AG’s office, a practice as rich, diverse and challenging as any I could have imagined. Over that career, I have generated a lot of written work, both professional and personal, and it was a considerable task to make sure that everything that might be important be saved where I could access it later. Addresses, phone numbers and contact information. Letters and receipts. Copies and required annual filings.
I’m sure that I will miss my career and the people with whom I have worked and whose relationships and friendships I value so much. I’m nervous about how I will see myself without the professional tag attached, without the structure of an alarm clock ringing while it is dark, without NPR accompanying my morning and evening commutes and without the work calendar and cell phone constraining me even when outside of work.
This has been my view for more days and years than I care to count, morning and evening – just the highway rather than city version. This I will not miss. One day, with some extra time on my hand, I did a rough calculation of the miles that I have commuted and the hours that I have spent in my car while commuting to my work in the Attorney General’s office. Not counting time in private practice, work travel and the bazillion of other times that I spent in the car for, near, from or to work, I figure that I have spent roughly 4 WORK YEARS — more than 8000 hours — commuting by car. And when you consider that there were long stretches of time when I lived only about 15 minutes from work, you can start to see just how weary I am of the daily grind of commuting. Even with NPR, books on tape, satellite radio, Pimsleur Spanish lessons, Bluetooth phone connections and podcasts, time in the car, starting and stopping, is hard and a waste of time, money and the environment. I wish there were decent public transportation options in this area but, alas, for most of my career, there were none available to me.
I am delighted to be leaving this sea of brake lights; at this moment, I have roughly 120 commute miles remaining in my work life. A round trip and a one way trip home tonight will finish out my life as a commuter. Tomorrow is my last day of work!!
Yes, my life in a motor vehicle will not come to an end with the close of my career. We have thousands of miles to go, and hours and days left to travel on the road trip to Alaska and Mexico and south. And I am certain that I have not seen the last of my fair share of brake lights. But with the coming of astronomical fall tomorrow, I will be in the spring of my retirement. Let the shoots emerge from the soil and the new growth begin!