I have longed for early retirement for many years, and for that I blame The Golden Girls. I love that show so much that when earlier this month J sent me a text message that simply stated 'Dorothy died', I knew exactly what she was talking about. I have fond memories of staying up until 9:30 on Friday nights, watching the show in my pajamas with my family, and laughing at jokes I didn't really understand. I have similarly fond memories watching reruns on Lifetime when taking breaks from studying in college.
Those girls-- they did it right. Trips all the time. Morning tennis lessons. Afternoon tea. Stories about Sicily. These are the things that appeal to the girl in me who needs rehab.
Today we had a retirement lunch for a teacher who's been at our school for thirty seven years. Thirty. Seven. Years. At the same school, teaching special ed. Please think about that for a moment.
The lunch room was covered with cakes, cards, and flowers. People took turns talking about this woman, and words like 'quintessential' and 'epitome' were thrown about with ease. She beamed.
Then it was her turn to speak. She was so choked up she could barely get the words out.
'It's been,' she began. 'I'm so...' She stopped, nodded her head, and whispered, 'thank you.'
To the twenty-something ear, her show of emotion could have been interpreted as sadness. 'Poor woman,' I might have thought a few years ago. 'She's sad it's over. She doesn't know what to do with her life. Thank God I'm only in my twenties and retirement is a billion years away. Maybe she should watch The Golden Girls for inspiration.'
But to the trained woman in her thirties, her show of emotion was more. It was pride. Thirty. Seven. Years. It would be impossible to capture her successes, her failures, and the countless hours of time and devotion into one eloquent speech. Sure, today there might have been some sadness. I guarantee there was also some happiness. Maybe a pinch of regret, a sprinkle of nostalgia, and a smattering of relief. If we do not feel all of these things when looking at our lives already, we will by the time we hit retirement. Her only words-- 'thank you'--summed it up perfectly.
As I left, I thought to myself that a woman in her thirties does not rush that moment, no matter how tempting it may be. When it comes, it will be great. Until then she has to take the time to revel in her accomplishments, learn from her mistakes, and realize that her career, like her relationships, will be deemed successful if eventually she can look back on them and feel proud.
But that doesn't mean that I don't look forward to a retirement condo in Florida with my girlfriends. I already know who my Rose and Dorothy will be. Blanche is up for grabs. I call Sophia.