Not sure that playgrounds still contain tetherball poles, but they were a staple of playgrounds when I was a child. The ball was tied or tethered to the pole, so it could only go out so far, no matter how hard anyone hit it. I don’t remember all the rules, but two people basically swatted it back and forth to each other, and I think the idea was to get your opponent unable to hit it back to you by getting the rope wrapped around the pole. I think at some point they were seen as dangerous, as way too many children got hit on the head with the ball as it spun back around to them.
People have asked me what is the biggest change since retiring, and the word “untethered” comes to mind. I used to check email as soon as I got up in the morning, throughout the day, before I went to bed, and often on weekends. Yes, this was my neurotic obsession, and I could have made the decision to shut it off more than I did, but I was in a position where customers depended upon me to help them with their technology, and I felt a responsibility to be available to them at all times. I knew email was a huge time-sucking part of my life, but I had no idea how free I would feel once my work email shut off. I was free of the dozens, sometimes hundreds, of Outlook emails that had to be read, acted upon, replied to, and cataloged for future reference! Now I could read my gmail whenever I wanted, and no one would be upset or frantic if I didn’t reply to them within a few hours. You have no idea how liberating this is until it actually happens to you! The ball on the cord has been ripped off and launched into space. It is truly the thing that has surprised me the most – how much I was chained to email and how wonderful to be free of its choke-hold on my time.
The other big change is the need to always be productive. I didn’t feel like I was doing my job unless every minute of the work-day was scheduled, and that everything on my “to do” list got checked off. There were certainly deadlines imposed upon me by my work; reports and spreadsheets and presentations to complete, but much of the stress to produce tangible results was self-driven. I had come to love sales over the years, but the worst part of having a sales career is that there is always a number hanging over your head, and no matter how good and smart and respected and loved by your customers, you live or die by that artificial number imposed upon you. Now I no longer have to judge what I accomplish every day by any measure other than what I impose upon myself. If I decide to clean out a closet, or work on a chapter of a book I am writing, or plant flowers, and none of those tasks gets done today, so what? I can do them tomorrow or the next day. What a total obvious but still totally surprising revelation this has become for me! My life is almost totally free of deadlines and the obsession to accomplish goals, and they are all now activities that I want to do – like buying a bridal shower gift before the date, or getting tickets to a show before they sell out. I don’t have to produce anything! I don’t have to show results or prove to the world that I am working hard, working smart, and producing anything that will make me valuable to some company’s bottom line.
This is not to say that I don’t have goals, but my goals now revolve around people and things that I love and that bring happiness to myself and others.
For someone who has worked in a very competitive and stressful industry for more than thirty years, I don’t know if I can adequately convey how freeing this is for me. It’s like I am a school child and school has let out for the summer, only it’s always summer. My older brother, who has been retired for a few years now, told me that for him the best part of retirement is Sunday night, when he realizes that he doesn’t have to go to work the next morning. My work was often extremely rewarding and the people that I have met over the course of my career some of the finest people I will ever know, but giving it up is even more wonderful than I imagined it to be. I am truly blessed to be able to decide how I want to spend act three of my life. Stay tuned for lots more and thanks for following along with me!