Sunday, April 17, 2016

The New Brain Drain

“There’s something happening in here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

 ~ Buffalo Springs, For What It’s Worth

There’s a quiet shift that seems to be going unnoticed by most. There’s nothing new about the retirement of the Baby Boomers, putting a strain on the world of commerce. However, what about the older Gen Xers; the ones who were born on the heels of the Baby Boomers (1965-1970)?

Ever since I publicly announced my retirement from nonprofit and consulting, I’ve been receiving numerous emails telling me I am not alone in my decision.  Most are people close to my age and born in the mid-60s and into the early 70s, from all sectors of the business world, not just nonprofit.

It is a cataclysmic, resounding proclamation of “I’m out!”

We’ve been going 100 miles an hour since the 1980s, with rare moments of refueling. We’re tired. We crave something that isn’t exactly clear, and we have never seemed to have had the opportunity to find out what it is for ourselves. We’re struggling with balancing the responsibilities for our children AND our parents. We’re barely holding it above water. In so many words we are stressed out, burned out and stretched to the limit.

In true Gen X fashion, when the game changes; we change the rules. We are re-defining retirement. We are taking the simplified lifestyle seriously. For many years, the idea of retirement always took on the persona of the old couple walking the beaches of Florida, or playing Bridge in a trailer down in Mesa, Arizona. It involved anything but working.

That being said, we aren’t dumb either. We know that we can’t retire like our grandparents did, and many Baby Boomers know this too. We know we will have to work well into our 70s, before we have a hope of not working at all. We also know that we don’t have to kill ourselves in the process.

This generally applies to people who are working at management and executive levels of any industry.

STOP! HEY WHAT'S THAT SOUND? EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT'S GOING DOWN!

Where is that manager? Where did he/she go? Did you even notice they weren’t there anymore? Remember that woman who used to be at all the events and functions? She’s not there anymore either. What about the CEO, when did they leave? Oh, that Mom and Pop shop down on the corner is boarded up with a For Rent sign on the window.

I assure you this isn’t any conspiracy of alien abduction, and the Rapture hasn’t happened. Gen  X is recognizing the significance of  our own worth, and what it means to us. Life is precious and all too short to be spent stressed out, burned out and stretched to the limit. In our younger years, we believed that having everything was what we wanted. In recent years, we’ve learned it’s not what we need.

We’ve spent the last few years unloading debt at a rapid rate, trimming the budget to a more comfortable level. We’ve been selling our homes and downsizing, just like the Baby Boomers. And that is why no one seems to have noticed that older Gen Xers are retiring alongside the Baby Boomers.

What does all this mean? It means that Gen Y and the Millennials are going to have to pick up the slack. If they want to succeed they will have to get in the game and put on their running shoes. They will have to prepare themselves to run a hundred miles an hour for long periods of time, without rest. They will have to figure out how to run a business successfully all on their own.

But, don’t worry. We’ll be there in the shadows, working the entry-level jobs they don’t want. We’ll be there working right alongside them. The only difference being, they will have to make all the decisions, and bear the load of responsibility and accountability. We won’t offer our suggestions or ideas, unless asked. We will go home and sleep at night without concern about what the morning will bring. We’re retired.

Oh, and I'll be over here, blogging and writing my books too.


Sunday, April 3, 2016

In the Garden

"Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow." ~  Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden was first published in its entirety in 1911, and it has been a favorite of young girls ever since. There’s a lot to be learned from this 331 page compilation of human tragedy and triumph.

The book opens in the dreary depths of winter, where the world seems gray and life at a standstill. The air is crisp and bitter, much like the tongues and hearts of the inhabitants of Misselthwaite Manor. Winter seems to have that effect on people. However, winter is the season where a choice must be made, by everyone, will we be bitter or better. Will we choose to blossom with the rising of the spring sun?

Oftentimes, people will find themselves in the depths of the despair of tragedy and unfortunately choose to stay there. They allow their hearts to solidify into a hardened stone. Some hearts never heal. The Secret Garden is filled with characters struggling with loss, grief, despair, and demoralization. The beauty that lies within the pages of this book is that no matter the darkness that enshrouds the situation, there is always hope, there is always a way to find the path to better days.

Mary, one of the most introverted child characters ever to grace the pages of a children’s novel, is contrary by definition. However, the girl has lost both of her parents, moved to a new home where she knows no one, and quite spoiled by her affluent lifestyle in India. Mary finds solace in a secret only she knows, in the forbidden garden that had been shut up by Master Craven at the death of his wife. Ironically, it was Master Craven himself who gave Mary the key to the garden when she only asked for a bit of earth.

The garden is dead to the eye, but along comes Dickon to prove otherwise. Dickon, the son of Susan Sowerby and the brother of the cheerful maid assigned to tend to Mary, cuts the bark of one of the trees in the garden and says, “It is quick.” Now back in those days, the word quick meant alive. I love this particular part of the book, because it teaches us something we don’t often practice these days: you must look deeper beneath the surface to find life and hope.

Another favorite part of the book of mine is where Mary teaches Colin, the supposed invalid son of Master Craven, that he is not a victim of circumstance. We’ve all met or been the sick person who is cranky and certain of impending death. Colin is mean-spirited and bitter. He has to make a choice, one that can only come from him. Will he try or will he lie down and die, because that is what is expected of him.

We all have our secret garden. It is the place that lives within. It is the place where the flame of hope burns eternal. No matter what it looks like on the outside, there is life and beauty, hope and love that exist inside. Some people call it the will to live, or the primal instinct of survival, I call it faith.

You see, The Secret Garden, is about finding the one thing that will save us all. It’s about finding the faith to believe in something greater than ourselves. The garden, Lilias’ garden, in the book is only a symbol of that faith. It is reflected in abundance and beauty and grace, only when the source of its life is tended; friendship also known as fellowship, believing in miracles, and knowing that there is a life source that is far beyond our own imagination.

We must all tend our garden in such a manner that it emanates the glory and steadfastness of the one who planted it. To do anything less is to give away the keys to the Kingdom.

Through literature, we learn to live, to love, and to conquer!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ah Blessed Retirement at Last!

I officially retired in September 2015. I know, it sounds incredible doesn’t it? And, it is. I will be forty-eight in July of this year. I began seriously thinking about retirement when I turned forty-three. I told a few people about my plan with mixed reactions. ‘You’re too young to retire,’ some said. Some reacted with disbelief, and others were well, I’m not really sure, but the overall sentiment was one of sarcasm and negativity about the whole thing.

I have my reasons for retirement, and none of them are health related. I began to look at my growing family and made the decision that they were more important than the hustle and bustle of career – not to mention the stress of responsibility that comes with careers.

I have three grandchildren on whom I dote relentlessly. They are the delight of my life. My newest granddaughter means the entire world to me at her tender age of 8 ½ months. We lost her older sister at birth in 2013, and that tore the core of my soul. It was then that the sub-conscious idea of retirement became a decision. Priorities that had been out of order for some time had come full-circle and the need to begin planning set in.

I began focusing heavily on debt reduction, even taking a second part-time job to expedite the process. It wasn’t the perfect road to retirement that I had planned, but in the end it all worked out. My main goal was not take a heavy debt-load into retirement with me.

So, I am officially retired from the nonprofit sector and consulting. I took a regular job that provides for healthcare, and supplements my income. Many people call it an encore career. I call it keeping my sanity. I go to work, do my job, and come home. I don’t take work home with me anymore. I don’t lay awake at night wondering what the next day will bring. I don’t worry about what other people think, and I don’t have to be careful about frenemies at work – they are all too young to be my friends. As a non-morning person, I took a job that allows me to sleep in and stay up late.

I am no longer tied to a cellphone, email and all the other tethers of modern careers. I enjoy what I do, even on hectic days. I am not responsible for creating reports and justifying budgets. I am not responsible for other people, or their actions. I am not responsible for anything except my part and my work.

The shift in my priorities has created a whole new world for me. I can do as I please, and spend copious amounts of time with my family. I can go places that I have always wanted to go, but never seemed to have the time.

There is a sense of freedom, even with the job. As a nonprofit professional, and those who are will know exactly what I’m talking about, one tends to get themselves emotionally entangled in their career, and then one day the line is completely blurred between what is work and what is life. I had to keep reminding myself that my job did not define who I was. That got harder and harder as the years went on. I know many professionals, men and women, who worked in the upper-echelon of the for-profit world and found themselves in the same predicament. They too opted for retirement from the stress-filled world of management, and some of them have also started encore careers.

I tried a few jobs that just weren’t right for me. My mistake was that I hadn’t considered that those jobs were also in the nonprofit sector. I’m not bashing the nonprofits. They are important and do good work, but the point is that I was trying to retire from the very thing I kept going back to.

I also have more time to write. I am working on the two books that are half finished. My retirement allows me to focus – wholly – on my writing. When I come home from work, I am not mentally drained as I was in the past.

I learned an important lesson in all of this:

Know when it’s time to move on, and then move on. 
Age has nothing to do with it!



Sometimes we all need a break. I will return to blogging regularly on Sunday.