Never say die. Baby boomer Wendy Reichental doesn’t. Writing from her home in Montreal, Wendy tells us of her whole new lease on life. She says it gives her optimism during these unsettled times. We could all use some of that.
I had been at my clerical job for nearly 30 years. I was fortunate enough to find it while I was still studying at university back in 1986, when what started as a mere part-time job at the university became a full-time opportunity after I graduated.
Like so many young people back then, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my undergraduate degree. But a general B.A. left the door wide open to follow numerous paths. However, having a steady income at my support staff position afforded me the luxury of being able to pay off my university loans while generating a sense of direction, something I desperately needed at the time.
I started working on an IBM electric typewriter with a correctable film ribbon and witnessed not only the wonders of technological advances but other insurmountable work-culture changes. What I had most enjoyed about my clerical job, as tedious as it could be at times, was that there was always a sense of camaraderie that balanced out any bad day. But as the years went on and our work space and cubicles became more confined and reduced, so too did our human interactions.
I gave my notice of retirement at the end of December last year. Something about starting 2020 on a clean slate rang too alluring for me. Those last few weeks in December were a blur. I knew I was leaving but still the whole thing felt surreal. I was not only leaving the only job I had ever known and held. I also was leaving my cherished colleagues and a steady pay. On the outside I might have appeared calm and decisive but on the inside, I was full of self-doubt. I was airborne without a parachute and still hoping that I would somehow land softly on my feet.
And then I did!
The year was 1996 when I took a one-year leave without pay to enroll at the School of Natural Therapies to complete a certificate in Foot Reflexology. At that time, it was still an emerging modality that in its simplicity espoused the principle that mapping the body to the feet and stimulating specific precise reflexes on them would facilitate a state of well-being and deep relaxation.
Not everyone was on board with my newfound interest. My parents thought I joined a cult! They were most suspicious of any practice that involved manipulating people’s feet and the claim that by doing so, people would somehow feel better. By the summer of 1997, I had successfully completed the requirements for a Certificate in Foot Reflexology but, in that same year, my leave was over, and I went back to my clerical job, where I stayed until last December.
My decision to retire at 58 was inspired in part by how much I missed being in a meaningful communicative experience with people. I am currently back to being a full-time student with the Reflexology Association of Canada or (RAC) as I complete the requirements to obtain an updated designation of Registered Canadian Reflexology Therapist. I am observing firsthand the benefits of this gentle therapy with my volunteer services at a Cancer and Wellness Centre. The rewards of doing something positive and beneficial for someone else have even had a boomerang effect on my own health. And for this self-proclaimed inveterate worrier, I now find myself more grounded, productive and content, than I ever felt sitting all day in isolation behind my computer.
I do not know what the trajectory of my retirement years will look like; none of us knows for certain. I only hope to enjoy them in good health and resilience. They say “You can’t go home again” but who wants that, really? We want to keep moving forward, keep learning, and know it’s never too late to reignite and pursue a hobby, or a passion.
I think Julie Andrews said it best: “Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.” I did just that when I was in my mid-twenties and grabbed that opportunity for a secure job, and am doing it again now in my late 50s.
My feet have been right under my nose this entire time and have led me to my current status of finding my footing and a whole new purpose and with any luck, a new career again!