I will turn 65 my next birthday. Thinking back over my life, I can visualize the many “hats” I have worn, several of which now sit on a shelf gathering dust. Girl Scout leader, Neighborhood Chair for over twenty Girl Scout Troops, Merit Badge Counselor for Boy Scouts, PTA President, Seamstress, Cook, Cleaner both at home and for a professional service, Editor of a union newsletter, Mentor, Teacher, Knitter, Crocheter, Crossstitcher, Quilter, Embroiderer, Canner, Typist, Salesgirl, Secretary, etc., not to mention daughter, Christian, friend, wife, mother, and grandmother. None of these descriptive titles defines me, aptly revealing who I am. I suppose I am a composite of them all, and oh! so much more.
Now that I am retired, I must decide on a day-to-day basis what to do with myself. Recently, I had the pleasure to visit The Shirt Factory in downtown Glens Falls, New York. If you are a quilter, a beader, an herbalist, an artist, a sculptor, etc., and live in the area, you are probably already keenly aware of the current use of the historic building on the corner of Lawrence and Cooper Streets. It has been favored with renewal. Out of the dust of closure due to globalization, The Shirt Factory building has come to life again. Its retired halls and rooms, which once hummed with endless seamstresses turning out world-acclaimed shirts and later dresses, are now filling up with small businesses. My favorite, of course, is Adirondack Quilts; others I find interesting are offered by beaders, fiber and ceramic artists, woodworkers, etc. It personally speaks to me that a building, once so vibrant and responsible for the income of a large number of households, that had closed its doors because it became cheaper to produce shirts in the Far East than in Eastern New York, had reopened its door and is now, again, a living entity. I see myself that same way, now that I am retired.
I personally think the term “retirement” is a misnomer. Most of us gradually move from one phase of life to another. There are those dramatic episodes – graduation from high school or university, a move from one area of the country to another, marriage – but most of our lives are spent evolving. Yes, when my three kiddos were growing up, I involved myself in areas of interest to them, such as Scouting. I also had personal passions, such as needlework and quilting, only one of which I continue to actively pursue. I no longer teach as a professional and can hardly understand how I fit into my schedule a full-time job, since I am so busy with quality commitments these days.
I know that it is important for me to constantly renew myself. One way to accomplish that goal is to look away from self and out into the community in which I live. Renewal comes if one is ready and willing. I am ready, and I think that is why the transition into retirement has been easy. After all, if one isn’t being renewed in life, the alternative isn’t very pleasant.
By Joy Healy