A Southern woman enters a room gracefully. She has checked her lipstick and hair. She holds her head high and greets the room with a confident hello and smile. She politely inquires about the individuals she encounters based on tidbits about their work and families. The same principles apply to exits- smiles, charm, a warm handshake, her grace in charge.
This is the metaphor for deciding to retire. A friend once told me that your body tells you when the alarm clock goes off whether or not it’s time to leave a job. A retired friend told me, “One day you will just know it’s time.” “But how will you know?” I asked. Her response was, “You will just know.”
And she was right. One day it happened. And the next day I walked into my Boss’s office at Western Carolina University and submitted my intent to retire letter. He’s a dear friend of mine and we had a pact that if either of us started losing it, we would let the other know it was time to go. It never came to that, thankfully.
I determined to leave with grace and style. While others planned my retirement reception and remarks, this Southern woman tactfully had her hand in it- an elegant invitation, cocktail piano by my favorite piano professor in the background, the right people who would make the right remarks, professional makeup application before the event, and an original Art to Wear outfit. I made sure my remarks were short, grateful, strong, and appropriate.
Photo by Frank Hachadurian
Then I received my first Social Security check. I decided to take Social Security early before the Republicans get rid of it through “entitlement reform.” Then the first retirement check came from the State of North Carolina. I absolutely love getting money in the mail and not working. Though I know I worked very hard from age 21 and earned every penny, I somehow feel privileged.
What I hate is all the advice and direction I have been given by those already retired. One friend announced he was signing me up to volunteer with United Christian Ministries. “Oh no you are not!” I replied. This is a wonderful charity but I will be the one deciding what I should do. I take a couple of exercise classes at the local senior center. Friends there do not understand why I don’t live at the place. It’s just not that exciting. I believe each of us finds our own way in retirement. I am an introvert. I love my home and I enjoy being by myself, reading, writing, or watching movies. I have no desire to learn to quilt, make my own greeting cards, or play Bingo. Those are great activities for others. But I have a stubborn independence fueled by my Southern upbringing.
My last working position was Assistant Chief Information Officer, Director of Academic Engagement and IT Governance in the Division of IT at Western Carolina University pictured above (I had the longest title in the university). My job as the academic in IT was to explain the geeks to the campus. I handled governance, committees, policies, strategic planning, and the management of relationships. I loved it.
And now they have asked me to come back occasionally as a consultant to fine tune the strategic plan. I said yes. For one thing, I have always had trouble saying no to the boss the CIO, my Favorite Geek. My Favorite Yankee thinks I miss my leadership role, and he may be right. Southern Women have to be in charge somewhere. Besides, it’s a good excuse to get some new clothes! Whatever I do, I will do it in my own Southern way.