February 15th….it’s always a unique and bittersweet day. It’s my half birthday (yes, I still recognize it at age 52 1/2), but it’s also a day of mourning, as it’s the day one of my closest friends passed away.
This year my half-birthday had more significant meaning, as I have decided that on February 15, 2029 (or soon after), I plan to retire at age 59 1/2. At that time (or possibly before), I hope to move (or snowbird) to the Gulf Coast of Florida. As I’ve grown to hate cold, snowy winters, I want to enjoy the warm temperatures and the sunsets on the Gulf, even if it means splitting time between Virginia and Florida.
I’ve spent my whole life as an outgoing Type A personality. As I continue to get older, I enjoy this less and less. Where the pandemic has been hard on people because of the loss of face-to-face interaction, I’m finding more peace by not having to be “on” for the entertainment or expectations of others. That’s why I put my energy and creativity into sharing Otto with everyone, instead of posting about myself….I know how much joy he’s brought into our home and our lives, and I’m glad that I can share that with others, as it’s about him, not about me. He lives a simple happy life – playing with his friends at the dog park or at daycare, chillin at home or in the car, or just taking walks through the neighborhood. There’s something to be said for stopping and sniffing the roses (or fire hydrants, or whatever Otto comes across).
Eleven years ago, one of my best friends died unexpectedly. Nine months ago, my ex-wife and the mother of my child died very unexpectedly. Neither of them got to watch their children grow up, see them get married and start families of their own. That’s heartbreaking. They were both “on-the-go” people that had to be “on” to do their jobs, and for all their incredibly hard work, they didn’t get to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the way that they deserved.
We all live on borrowed time…I’m thankful that I’ve had so many tremendous opportunities in my life….I had my 15 minutes of fame, I achieved most of the goals that I had for myself, and I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends along the way. I’ve also made many big mistakes (both personal and professional) for which I carried shame for a very long time, but that I’ve made peace with and that I’ve learned from. All of these things occurred as a result of my Type A personality. It served its purpose, and with each passing day, I try to move away from it more and more.
When I moved from New York to Pennsylvania, it was because of my job. When I moved around Pennsylvania, it was because of relationships, and I again moved because these relationships ended. The only time I felt like I happily and actively moved for myself was when I moved to Virginia. I’ve experienced things here that I could only dream of (including simple but rewarding things, like having the MLK Memorial all to myself one night), and my 10th anniversary of living here will be in two months. I know in my heart that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this hustle and bustle, materialistic image-conscious environment known as the District of Columbia, and that I want to enjoy a more serene life like I had as a child, but with much better weather year-round than the weather of the Catskills.
I know that a lot of my friends were taken aback when they found out about my “clothing optional” lifestyle. I expected the jokes and the shock that followed, but it showed me that I can handle it, and that I no longer care about what people expect of me. I know how peaceful that experience is for me, and that I don’t have to care or worry about being “on” for anyone else. I want to embrace that feeling of peace and quiet more and more as I get older.
I’ve also decided that this will be my last year on social media. Although it has given us all an avenue of communication, I’ve seen more damage on social media than good as a result. One of my lifelong friends posted a condescending and degrading comment about people who are vaccinated. I copied and pasted this post into a Word document, and changed the word “vaccinated” to “minorities”….even though these are two very different groups, the hatred when I read it with the change of one simple word was both disturbing and disgusting. I now find myself questioning my friendship with this person, and how I could be so blind to not see this part of their personality for all of these years. It’s been 14 years of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all of these other platforms, and yes, they are addicting. It will be a challenge, but I need to ween myself away from these to achieve the life I want to live.
I’d be lying if I said that I don’t dream about what I hope my retired life will be like…if my life was a book, Chapter 1 would’ve been my life through college, and Chapter 2 would be my professional career. I’d love for Chapter 3 to include a very simple life – enjoying friendships, not having to feel obligated to meet anyone else’s expectations for my career, and maybe having a condo in Cape Coral and a bulldog named Spartacus (I could call him Sparky!), as after Otto, I can’t imagine not having the happiness of another happy pooch…I have no desire to compete and compare anymore…Otto has helped me to realize that in putting my needs aside for his….when he needs to go out at 4am, it doesn’t matter how well I sing, or how well I put a presentation together.
Life is short….as we were younger, it was all about A’s….grades, success, personalities and recognition. I wanna be Type F (or in this case, Type FL for Florida), being the person I dream about being, even if nobody else can see that….nobody else’s opinion matters, and I sure as hell would like to enjoy a few Gulf sunsets before the end of my “book.”