Fran gets her spunk back

Fran gets her spunk back

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by Fran Parker

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June 1 was my last day of paid employment…I think.

At various times in the past month, I’ve described my new status as retired…..or semi-retired.  The one thing that I’ve been very sure of is that I am taking the summer and fall off.  I need time to regroup and decide how I’m going to spend the next 30 years of my life.

This spring, I recognized that my job was not a good fit for me.  I was not happy and considered quitting and looking for another job. 

For many years, I’d been advised to delay drawing Social Security as long as possible, so I was planning to work until I was 66. Toward the end of April, I consulted with my financial advisors, initially with the intent of learning how long I could be unemployed before finding suitable work again. I found out I had saved enough to retire with a modest, though not extravagant, lifestyle. It didn’t take me very long to make my decision.

I moved to Grand Junction in February of 2006, after over 30 years in Wisconsin. Many told me it took a lot of courage to come here at age 51, leaving behind a home, a secure job, friends, and a familiar community in Milwaukee, to move to a community where I didn’t have friends or family.  This was a tall order for an introvert.

It seems like I lost my spunk after I moved here.  Though I love living in Grand Junction, the past ten years have been a challenge. I’ve experienced unstable work situations. It’s been a difficult community to break into socially. I found myself in a community dominated by conservative politics and learned very quickly to keep my more “liberal” opinions to myself (for the most part), lest it impact my employment prospects. As a result, I’ve felt more isolated.

Since the move, I’ve had the heartbreak of losing both of my parents, one after a relatively brief illness and the other after an eight-year descent into dementia.  I began to dread the process of getting older.

I decided that I really did not want to have a long life.  In my mind, 80 was plenty old, despite the fact that I have known healthy, active, and vibrant people well into their 80’s and beyond.  I greeted each sign of my own aging (arthritis, hearing loss, forgetfulness etc.) with dread.

 I was afraid of getting dementia, being physically frail, and not being able to take care of myself. I was particularly fearful about what might happen with my brain.

Shortly before my decision to “retire,” I started reading about aging and memory loss and watched a documentary on this topic.  I began learning more about preventing, and perhaps even reversing, age-related cognitive decline.

I’m now viewing retirement as a time in which I can actively shape the future I want for myself. This is going to be the best 30 years of my life! 

So, what have I done in the month since I left my job?  I’ve continued my yoga practice.  I’ve stepped up my physical activity considerably and am now walking or hiking about 5-6 days a week.  I’ve discovered Canyon View Park’s recently installed adult fitness circuit and go there a couple of times a week.  Finally, I went to three line dancing classes (for me, it’s brain exercise!) and will probably start again in the fall.fran-at-Canyon-View

I’ve taken up meditation and done some journaling as part of an online course I’m taking. I’ve joined Great Old Broads for Wilderness and am participating in my church’s outreach program feeding Sunday breakfast to homeless individuals.  I’ve put in an application to volunteer at the GJ Visitor Center, which I’m really looking forward to.  I’ve met more than the usual number of friends for lunch, breakfast and dinner.

On my 62nd birthday a few weeks ago, I walked into the local Bureau of Land Management office and purchased my lifetime national parks pass….for $10.  A bargain at five times that price, it’s the best birthday present a newly retired person could get!

What have I not done?  Clean my house.  Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.  Actually, I hope to improve in this area, though at times I think I’m hopeless.

What’s next for me, besides more visits to our spectacular national parks/public lands and longer hikes when the weather cools off?  I have three short in-state trips planned this summer.  Perhaps a late fall reunion with my far-flung cousins.  Lots more creative time…whether it be writing more blogs and setting up my own blog site or more arts and craft type projects.  And more!

When I announced my big decision, a friend sent me a card. It said, “She took her power back ~ without permission.”  And so I did!

 

The new adult fitness circuit at Canyon View Park provides the opportunity to get in better shape while breathing fresh air, watching ducks in the pond, kids playing, dogs and their humans and more.  Much better than a stuffy old indoor gym!  There will be a free orientation class (Pull Your Own Weight) for using Canyon View Park’s outdoor equipment at 9am on July 14.  Sign up with Grand Junction Parks and Recreation.  More information is available on page 19 of the Summer Activity Guide or by calling 970.254.3866

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