Orbiting Retirement

Change of Mind-graphic(created by vknecht)

I am a little bit older than Sharon. She just turned 55 and I will be turning 58 this year. One of the reasons our partnership works well, in my humble opinion, is that our lives are similar and yet very different. You get two perspectives for the price of one.

I was surprised to see though that our younger selves had very close dreams of how we would retire. A hut on the beach was ideal in my naive teenage brain. Doing something creative and being able to supplement retirement income would be a bonus. 

I always thought I would do something with art or music. I never considered banking or corporate life as a permanent thing. It lasted almost 40 years and became my priority. It also funded my ability to explore spirituality, art and music at leisure which kept my soul fed. 

Now, I find myself having a desire to explore the potential and benefit of reconfiguring retirement. A liberation to shed a traditional path most of us feel compelled to follow.

What if there was another path to a sense of freedom you never knew existed?

Simplifying life, opens your mind to new possibilities. I ask myself what parts of my life hold me prisoner? Can I let them go in order to find a new orbit?

Fear is an interesting four letter word. It can seem to have a bigger hold when looking at the unknown future. Knowledge of gained experiences helps me to dispel fear. The more things I try the less control fear keeps me chained down. 

Can you create a new world within your mind of what retirement should look like for you?

I have been working through the Kundalini system. The 7 Cakra’s to liberation. In the space of the 6th Cakra there is a new definition of mind that functions within two realities. The manifested and the unmanifested. 

As I get older I have the gift of experiences to help guide my decisions. The knowledge of how actions I make impact my intuition to alter my choices and the truth that remains once the journey is completed. The more aware I become of my ability to control my intended orbit, the easier it gets to become insightful and intentional with my directions. To plot a path and trajectory that will land me in the spot I desire is first imagined in my mind. 

What if I was able to maintain a “skylike mind”? A mind that welcomed new experiences that bubbled up from unmanifested parts of me. Those parts had been stored for later and are now showing themselves to be key tools for my current journey.

I am building a new world in which to accommodate a new version of me. The material is drawn from a well of known experiences instead of a well of intellectual conditioning. There is power and energy I can intuitively draw on that knows how to balance the flow. 

If all of my experiences are a creation of my mind then what do I have to fear?

My desire to be liberated puts me on a path towards a freedom I never knew existed.

Retirement Planning

I’m sitting on the lanai of a rented condo in Maui on the eve of my 55th birthday and wondering how I can make it happen so I live here.

It’s funny how retirement planning takes on different meanings throughout our lives. My son will be 20 in a few weeks. I’ve been talking to him about saving money for retirement. His attitude, “Mom, if I haven’t made enough to live on by then, I don’t want to live”. Ah….the arrogance of youth, but I get it. At his age, 30 seems like forever.

When I started my teaching career, I imagined I’d be three years retired at this age, maybe with a grandchild or two to keep me occupied. I’d have a teacher’s pension and would likely do some substitute teaching to keep myself busy.

Little did I know, I’d give up teaching and work through being an educational psychologist before landing in instructional design. I have a small teacher’s pension, but not the one I planned on because I don’t have 30 years in the profession.

I’ve got RRSPs and investments, so I know I’m in good shape for retirement. I won’t be retiring in 4 years as was planned 10 years ago because I’m now on my own. My ex had significantly more RRSP savings, and the agreement was I’d support more of our life while we were working because I made more money, and he’d support more of our retirement. That worked so long as we were married. When your husband realizes he’s gay, that plan changes.

I’ve gone through my travel journals and have noted, many times, “All I want to do is live in a yurt with wifi, indoor plumbing, and volunteer for the Pacific Whale Foundation.” There was a time I looked at purchasing property on this island, but it wasn’t feasible. My financial advisor pointed out that – besides all the taxes, laws, estate issues – I could do a LOT of renting for the same amount of money.

He was right, of course. There’s so much world to see – why limit myself to just one spot? Well, because I love Maui. I feel at home here. I’ve been to the islands 18 times, and every time, I feel inspired, creative, at peace. Until the pandemic hit, I was planning my vacation for the following year as soon as I got home.

My 20 year old self had no idea the dream of living in Hawai’i would be something in my future. My 30 and 40 year old self saw it as something I’d very much like to do, but couldn’t afford. Twice, I’ve been approached by Hawaiian Airlines to interview for a position with them, and twice I had to turn it down. A family of three cannot live on an instructional designer’s salary down here (and truth be told, I much prefer Maui or the Big Island to Oah’u).

My 50-ish year old self now has a boyfriend who said he’d happily come visit me if I chose to be here part of the year, and an adult son who loves it here as much as me. I have a job I can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have a strong wifi connection.

My retirement planning doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 30 years ago. I have the means to live as I’m currently living until the ripe old age of 98 – at which time I will run out of money and become my son’s problem. 🙂 Given my genetics, that lifespan is very likely. It didn’t factor in a love for travel in general, and a specific love for Maui – which has gotten more expensive to visit year after year.

To those who are just starting out, retirement age will come faster than you think. Plan for what you need, and add more for what you might want but don’t realize yet.

For those who are my age, we can still achieve our dreams. We may have to get creative in how we get to them, but it can happen. Maybe living here full-time isn’t achievable, but maybe 3 months a year is realistic. I don’t want to buy a timeshare, but maybe there’s a way to rent a two bedroom place and sublet the second bedroom for additional income and keep it free when people want to visit. Maybe I can rent out my condo at home for people who want to be close to the mountains for skiing during the winter months to help pay for me wanting to be close to the ocean during winter.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I’ll be 55 years old tomorrow and I’m still planning my retirement. I guess the take-away is to remain open; you never know what life is going to throw your way, and you need to be ready for all of it.

Feedback Is A Gift

Feedback is a gift. Use it to improve your life and perspective.

letters carved using wood
Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com

Rejection is a hard thing to accept. Rejection without knowing what the cause was leaves you never to not understand what you could have done differently. If you are lucky enough to receive feedback at the same time as the answer is “no” to hiring you then take what is being said and examine it for growth opportunities.

It takes courage to share your rejection with others. It takes time and effort to give someone feedback when they don’t fit your company. Some might even say that you are brave enough to write a blog post about it. Well, Sharon and I have been pretty open on this platform with our lives. We include our wins and our losses. Our relationships both professionally and personally.

So it seems pretty natural that I would share my insights with you about rejection and feedback.

I was given feedback on my interview journey with a company on a job I didn’t get. How can I use this information to improve my professional skills and get better at communication and listening?

I am going to share the details with you, in hopes that you may find some commonality in your own struggles and benefit from using it as a gift.

Here is what I was told about myself or the perception of me as I went through the interview process.

  1. After a presentation to a team that would have been my fellow peers, the feedback was that I was passionate but I didn’t share anything that they could use about the topic.
  2. The hiring person thought I would be bored after 6 months if I was the successful candidate.

Ok, there we have it. Two gifts, now what to do with the information given?

Let’s break down the first comment:

One of the number one foundations of instructional design is to know your audience.

That can be a bit trickier if you have no way of asking ahead of time the knowledge level or the background of the participants. It can be overcome though. You have to ensure that the content covers the lowest denominator and then stays about in the middle of the skill set. I missed the mark here and assumed too much about my audience.

There are further challenges when you have to decide what to present in a 15 minute window.

Which is better though? I think taking the time to add details and assuming your participants know nothing about what you are presenting is a safe bet. If you lose your audience quickly by talking in a different language than they are, you fail to make your points understood. So using KISS- Keep IT Simple Stupid is better than the alternative.

Less passion? Is that what is meant by saying I am very passionate? Do I come across more animated than I should? Talk too fast, too much?  Maybe, or it could be I missed the mark in using WAIT-Why Am I Talking? I missed some opportunities as I reflect on the group interview now. If I had it to do over again I would have simplified the key points to maybe one or two. Then asked more questions about what  the group would have done. Hindsight right? If statistics are right I could get a lot of practice at this by applying for 15 jobs a week. At this stage of my life I am not sure I am THAT Passionate….lol.

I would get bored within 6 months

This comment is harder to decipher. What do you do with that? 

I can take it many ways…

  • Polite way of saying over qualified or too expensive 
  • I come across as arrogant in my skills and knowledge without meaning too
  • This company undervalues change or growth opportunities
  • Being with another company for over 30 years doesn’t show patience or loyalty

As you can tell I am still contemplating this feedback and what I am to learn from it.

So now that I have this gift of feedback, what are my next steps?

The first step was to write about it here to help me see it, read it and unpack it. The next step is to remember it. Watch and listen for cues that it is happening with other interviews I am lucky enough to encounter.

The key is that feedback is truly a gift. An opportunity to reflect on your behavior through someone else’s eyes. If you receive it, thank the person or company. Have others given you this feedback before? If yes, are you getting better or worse as you try to change your muscle memory? Take the opportunity to break it down into segments you can review then come up with a strategy. Record your progress so you can look back and hopefully see a positive change.

My job search continues with a new set of tools to practice with based on the feedback.

Wish me luck and if you can, please share your feedback with me.

We both learn and thrive this way and will use your feedback to help myself and anyone else interested in learning from it.

The Waiting Game

brown wooden framed hour glass
Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

I have applied for a few jobs and even had the luck to get interviews. I was trying to figure out the other day a ratio between how many jobs you should apply for before you should wait for responses? Well being curious I “Googled it”. According to experts you should apply for 2-3 jobs per day up to 15 a week. Holy that’s a lot I am thinking. If you apply for too many it goes on to say that you might not look credible. You may even be overlooked in the future for a job with a company that is a perfect fit. 

I am now down the rabbit hole exploring how many jobs to put on a resume, how many skills to list and what education to include. Cover letter or not to cover letter, what determines this?

On the number of jobs to list on the resume, the consensus is to go back 10-15 years if you can. This will help you decide the jobs to include. Highlight ones that relate to the position you are applying for. That makes sense to me. I would caution against applying for too many jobs as quite a few ask you what you know about their company. If you can’t articulate anything you may be passed on. How many mission statements, business goals or strategies can you remember?

The same logic goes for skills to list. Make sure they are relevant to the posting. I want to share my love of bonsai tools but if I am applying for an instructional designer, potential employers might not care about that. If I want to show diversity in interests I might include it in my hobbies. Does anyone put hobbies on their resume (CV) anymore? Does anyone call it a resume anymore?

How long should you wait for a response to your application? I turn to Google once more for advice. Statistics say wait 10 to 14 business days. That makes sense and seems like good advice. Let’s play a game of counting, if you applied for 3 jobs a day and up to 15 a week. Keep that up for 4 weeks. How long could you potentially be waiting for a job offer???

Short answer is a long time. I am in a position to wait I suppose as I have other sources of income I can draw on. I think of it as a bit of an adventure in which I am curiously exploring and then recording what happens along the way. The great thing about advice you find on the internet is you can take it or leave it.

There are parts of the process not mentioned in the applying and connecting ratio that I think are critical to my search. Call it maturity or call it having the means to be selective, either way I have time and patience to explore “best fit scenario”. I am trying to apply to companies that I believe can offer something that enhances what they are looking for or doing in the near future. It has to be worth the wait for both parties and it will enhance the experience in the long term. It’s very tempting to start your own company. I struggle with narrowing down my interests enough to find something viable and profitable.

In the meantime, I am learning new skills, polishing old ones, doing a bit of exploration as to what’s trending. My bonsai tools are being sharpened just in case they are needed. I bought a Cricut so I can make t-shirts that can capture my mood while I wait. You have to maintain a sense of humor and have a jar of patience kept warm. I am nowhere near the 15 job applications this week or this month so I better get busy.

Wish me luck!

Ready To Know More

2021 in rear view mirror

I do love a good reflection. It’s even better if I can look back on a year with a sense of satisfaction and contentment. I feel like I am finally becoming me. More than I have ever settled into my core system in my entire adult life.

How did the year start? I was struggling with what to do with myself. I had been given a year’s grace and needed to decide whether I would take and explore “me” or go back into a world of distractions. I chose to take a deep dive into my psyche. I felt the best way to do that was to “get myself to a nunnery”…lol…no but almost. I chose to travel to an ashram on the banks of Kootenay lake in BC Canada. I really had no clue what that might entail. I didn’t know what I would be doing, where I would be staying or what kind of COVID protocols they had embraced. It really didn’t matter to me anymore. I needed change. I needed time and space to sort out what was going on inside my mental state of being.

I had my niece’s son drive me so I had no way of leaving if I found myself not liking the place. I am pretty good at “toughing it out” and completing what I start no matter how uncomfortable it becomes. Somehow, I knew this was going to be the best experience of my life so far and the worst experience of my life so far.  The first two weeks, I was in quarantine in a cabin by the lake. I hadn’t stayed alone for that long ever in my life. I do like my own company so that wasn’t a challenge. I have many hobbies that I had brought with me so settled into a routine of painting, writing music, capturing video footage and editing videos. As the time rolled on, the group I was with were slowly introduced to the community. We were able to work outside with masks on and get to know the daily routine of those that lived there.

Most people that go to the ashram are there to examine their behaviors, thoughts, emotions and core beliefs. It’s a heightened focus on how you integrate yourself into a new village. One where traditions and protocols have been in place for many years. I struggled, at first, with someone telling me when and what to eat, when to sleep, how I needed to contribute to the greater good. I was curious as to what was being triggered for me to feel that way. It was a struggle if I am being honest. I learned that I can be pretty uptight and aggressive. Meditating and doing Hawtha yoga really helped me to “chill out”. The longer I stayed the more free I felt. Which seems so bizarre when you consider most of your days is made up of doing routine and mundane tasks. There is something to knowing that your actions have a direct impact on the sustainment of a community. The food is grown on site, it’s prepared and cooked as needed. If you don’t help clean the plates no one eats. If you don’t help shovel the walks or clean the rooms everyone suffers. The direct link between cause and effect is very apparent in such a place.

I left the ashram with a full heart and a new awareness that has only strengthened as the year progressed. I began to understand relationships I had with my husband, kids and siblings through a new lens. The discernment between selfless service and self gratifying service. My ego was exposed in many ways.

I decided to buy a van after many years of following vanlifers and dreaming about the adventures I could take with it. I love it! I have enjoyed learning new skills. I took a sledgehammer to the inside of it. Replacing everything while trying to keep the old seventies vibe still at its heart. It’s a labor of love and seems to be an ongoing project which I am having fun doing. 

A year later where am I now? I find myself once again at a crossroad. Should I go back to work full time or on contract? Should I pursue more writing opportunities and find ways to make a passive income that helps me to keep my options of traveling open and spontaneous? I have decided to let the universe guide me here as it hasn’t let me down yet. Some offers are percolating so time will tell which direction I go. I am grateful to be in a position where I can choose my adventure. I have discovered that I really liked what I did for a living and hope to continue to find projects that have meaning and connect with many diverse perspectives along the way. I am passionate and curious about the world and how we learn to navigate it. I am grateful for all of you who continue to support us at Midlifearises. 


Perfection is the Enemy of Done

I don’t know who originally coined this phrase, but I heard it for the first time today from one of my coworkers. It stuck with me for the remainder of the day.

How many times do we get stalled, sidetracked, or defeated because of a need for perfection? I know I do. On one hand, I’m a “Type A” personality who likes to get things done. On the other hand, I’m a perfectionist. If something is going to be done with my name attached, it needs to be the best of which I’m capable. It’s quite a dichotomy.

At work, my analysis and storyboards need to be thorough enough to give the client a picture of what the training will be, detailed enough for the development team to put it together, and have a flow that is easy for a learner to follow. I’m working on something now that I’ve written and reorganized several times. Every time I look at it, I find something I want to change. If I want to make it perfect for others, it needs to be perfect for me. At some point, I’ll get tired of reworking it and simply want to get it done.

When I was a dog groomer, I had a hard time thinking a dog was ‘done’. There was always a stray hair, wonky curl, or some part needing “just a little more” attention.

When I clean house, I may set out to simply vacuum and wash the floors, and find myself washing baseboards, door frames, and windows.

Many years ago, when stuck in yet another rut because I couldn’t get something as perfect as I wanted it, someone said to me, “Sharon, you have to realize your 80% is someone else’s 100%.” Yeah, but…

It’s one thing to hear and another to put it into practice. I am driven to always produce, what I perceive to be, my best work. Imagine how it felt when one workplace started to use agile methodology. I had to learn the concept of “good enough” and get things out the door quickly so it could be tried and reiterated upon. It was uncomfortable…at first.

It didn’t take long before I started to see things didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, perfection impeded progress. Clients preferred regular updates and offering feedback during development, rather than waiting to see a finished product at the end. It made them feel part of the process and it helped us, ultimately, produce a near-perfect product.

I groomed a dog just last night and didn’t think I was finished after two hours of work. The owner, however, loved how much better her dog looked and walked away happy. If I’d wanted it to be perfect, I may still be grooming it – he was 190 pounds of dog!

When I competed in my first CrossFit Open, I knew I was not (in any way, shape or form) close to perfection for many of the movements. There were some I couldn’t do at all. Yet, perfection wasn’t the goal. Getting it done was. Being able to say I did it, for the first time at 50 years old, was enough for me. If I’d waited for perfection…well, I simply wouldn’t live long enough!

Think about your own life. When is “done” enough? What things need to be “perfect”? Is it realistic to want to achieve perfection? If so, at what cost?

When is perfection the enemy of done?

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