A Failed Challenge And Then Success
GUEST POST BY RUTH PYE
In my family, the word retirement was a word that had different meanings. Roger, my husband, retired from his career at 50 years of age and is the brunt of jokes about it—my nephew asking the family if anyone remembered when Roger worked. My Dad wrote his retirement letter from a hospital bed at 85 years of age saying, “It breaks my heart to do this.” My brother and I had a conversation about retirement, he told me, “I’ll work until I die.” Sadly, he died a month after his 59th birthday. I had a plan for when I retired—which included living to enjoy it—spend more time with my two grandchildren, volunteering, scrapbooking, and researching family history. A friend encouraged me to write my story to include some of the funnier and interesting situations I had encountered in my career and I thought I would do that too.
I had a plan now, I wasn’t waiting until I was 85. I was past my 60th birthday and I had a date picked for my retirement: November 18, 2010. As the time got closer I didn’t feel excited, but I had a plan. I should be excited, I told myself. During my drive into work that last morning I became very nostalgic as I looked at the fields and farms, the horses and even one Llama, thinking I wouldn’t be coming this way again. My office was not located in prime real estate, but across from the very busy laundry in a Long-Term Care Home. I checked all my paperwork to make sure everything was up to date, then I finished emptying my personal effects into the boxes around my desk. Suddenly I felt like I was suffocating in my windowless basement office. The warm steamy smell and the not so nice smells coming from the laundry across the hallway were making me gag. I ran up the stairs and outside, leaving the sounds and smells behind me. The cold sunny November day revived me enough to enable my return to the office. There was a phone message from my manager wishing me well and telling me, “I’m glad to have been a part of your journey to retirement.” Emotions surged, tears flowed as I realized how sad I was feeling that my career was ending. I was grateful to be working alone that day.
The preparation for Christmas was enjoyable, in the New Year I started writing my story. I was unfocused, even though the plan to write my story was there. I had a supportive friend, but there wasn’t a plan on how to write it. My thoughts were fragmented and came to me like broken pixels in a picture, and I was sad! My writing paper was a hard covered 4-inch by 6-inch, coil bound notebook. Coil-bound? My left hand hindered me from writing in a coil-bound notebook unless I used every other page, and the pages were too small!
In a few short weeks I had failed, the challenge was too great, and I felt overwhelmed by failure and sadness. One day my former manager asked, “Would you consider returning to part-time until your replacement begins?” That began four years of a retirement career. I never again worked full-time, contracts seemed to find me, they usually lasted between three to six months, always in the field of geriatric assessment and referral and dementia education. I worked contracts around travelling, summers at the trailer in Katrine, and best of all was “Nana” time. I continued volunteering, scrapbooking alone or with friends and family research. I didn’t think about writing my story, that silly small notebook I had used remained in the drawer.
My first failed retirement was behind me, now I was stimulated and energized, and I was using my 40 plus years of experience. In 2014, a contract ended, and it was time for me to end my work. This time I was very confident, I could end while my knowledge and experience were relevant—which to me was important in an ever-changing world and particularly the world of healthcare. My sense of humour also played into the decision; I was older than some of my clients; and like some of my clients, stairs were becoming a problem! I was happy to move to the next part of my life. I would have hobbies and be busy and perhaps become engaged in new activities, but not writing. After 45 years of membership, I resigned from the Ontario College of Nurses—that felt right too.
Almost a year ago my then thirteen-year-old grandson, Thomas, called me in Florida requesting a picture of me as a nurse, by the next day. Fortunately, I had a picture on my computer that I could send him. The picture was the first part of a grade 8 assignment, the second part came along shortly thereafter. He needed to interview me and had some questions about what I had done, where I had worked, and did I make a difference to others, and lots of other questions. On the spot, I had difficulty recalling dates, and tasks, or even making it interesting. It was his homework, but I thought there might be some interest there. With that in mind, I thought about my first failure, it was in the past, this was now. I enrolled in Writing My Personal Story, beginning when I returned from Florida in the Spring of 2017. Thank you, Thomas, you provided the nudge to start on this journey.
In 2014 writing was not on my to-do list, yet I’m currently in my third six-week course of Writing My Personal Story, taught by Melony Teague. I am enjoying everything about it, the people, the course content, the writing and of course the interactive, safe, and fun environment that Melony creates.
Thank you, Melony, for your expertise on the “how” to write my story.
Ruth Pye is a retired Registered Nurse who specialized in Geriatric care and education and is a wife, mother, and grandmother who resides in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She is writing her personal story to pass on to her family and future generations.
Melony Teague is a freelance writer who believes everyone has a story to tell and each story is unique and sometimes wilder than fiction. She loves to uncover the good news in society and writes human interest and community pieces. As co-author of As the Ink Flows, she loves to inspire and motivate others through her written words. In her spare time, she reviews books and interviews authors. These reviews can be found right here on her website. She also teaches seniors in her local community to write their own personal story. Melony Teague was born in South Africa and immigrated to Canada. She now lives in Toronto with her husband, their two children, and two cats.