I was still 5 years from my planned retirement. I dared to think about it. What would I do? There were 5 things that came to mind. The trail was one of the items on the list. Four of them could wait, The trail could not! It had fervently become meaningful and necessary. Who knows what the next five years would bring. I gave myself two years to get ready.
Retire isn’t a word I like or accept. It is something you do to end the day. Terminating a long working career is a moment to celebrate for sure, but retirement isn’t an end but a beginning. The joy of celebration may last a few weeks. The opportunity exists for new and exciting personal growth. For me the six months on the trail will require all the lessons learned and effort put forth during my entire working career. It has the potential to be as rewarding and satisfying as well.
I prefer to use the words renew, redevelop, reconsider, and rethink. Renewal of dreams, passion,and focus. Rethink and develop the gifts I have. Reconsider how best I can put them to use. One word stands apart and above all these words. Relationships.
It doesn’t take retirement to redefine my relationships, but that just happens to be where I am in life. There is no way to avoid making this adjustment. As for my coworkers who have played an important part in who I am, I’ll try to maintain our friendship and support. Even now new friendships at work have started since my announcement of the hike. Hopefully some of these will grow and mature. As the date grows nearer, I have started to view this as an opportunity to reconcile old neglected or broken relationships while adding new like-minded ones along the way. The Trail, like retirement, isn’t just the beginning of a new journey. It’s a reset. A chance to grow with a renewed vision full of possibilities to give purpose and meaning to the days ahead. Thinking like that retirement doesn’t sound so bad!
Over 4,000 people are supposed to attempt this hike in 2019. I will only meet a small portion of them. Add to that the section and weekend hikers, people met in towns and hostels. The chance to interact and develop bonds will be plentiful. These short but intense relationships have the potential to exceed others developed over longer periods of time. There is also those back home. Family and friends are essential to the success of such a lengthy time away from home. In times of loneliness or low morale, they can instill confidence, determination, a renewed spirit. Hopefully by sharing the experience, they in turn can be challenged or inspired to try something they thought too difficult to attempt. It might not be hiking but purely a personal goal. Encouraging and energizing each other. Growing the relationship.
This leads to one last point about relationship. My attitude and relationship to the hike. What seems like a sole endeavor or personal achievement is exactly the opposite. To do this by myself, for myself, and then take sole credit for the achievement would be empty and false. Yet to be part of a team gives purpose. A purpose that makes the effort worthwhile. I have been helped by many people to get to this point and give thanks for their blessings. Happiness is elusive when we focus on ourselves. To be part of something bigger rewards everyone involved. I hope to continue growing all these relationships, not only on my hike but throughout my retirement.
“I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society.”
Henry David Thoreau