It was January, 2012. When I look at this photograph I am transported back to that beautiful Santa Barbara beachfront resort, where we spent our pre-retirement weekend, replaying the events and conversations from the previous few days.
I had given notice of my intended retirement, nearly four weeks earlier in mid-December, and only 2 weeks remained before I would be free as a bird after 45 years in the corporate world. Soon, I would have time for my 5 grandsons, my husband, my ailing Sheltie, Shadow; and time to begin doing things because I wanted to do them, rather than because I had to do them.
In the days leading up to our weekend, we had been at Orange headquarters for a Senior Executive Staff Meeting (my last). Since the executive team was together for the meeting, the CEO planned a lovely farewell dinner, in my honor at a local restaurant in Anaheim, not far from Angels Stadium. My husband had joined me for the week and the dinner, after which we intended to drive north to Santa Barbara for what was to have been a pre-retirement, celebratory weekend.
We hadn’t planned on the wrinkle in our carefully-crafted plans; the CEO asked me not to leave. The barrage of pressure began early in the week and at each turn, with each workshop and every session, there were not-so-subtle allusions to my not leaving.
The irony did not escape me, that after years of being a woman in a traditionally male profession; struggling for recognition and parity; waiting for the cream to rise to the top, the well-deserved pat on the back, I was, finally and very publicly, getting what I had, so earnestly, sought for so very long. It was nice being appreciated, needed, valued. And yet, I was ready to put it all behind me and embrace the next phase of my life.
As I look at this photograph, I remember that Santa Barbara morning and the decision we faced; to stay on another month (and all that the extended timeline entailed) or to leave as we had planned. As we walked on the deserted beach at sunrise, I imagined myself as the seagull soaring high above the water’s edge, with only the sky and the sea as boundaries. I viewed my decision from that lofty perspective – uninvolved and un-catchable, unless I allowed it. It was an empowering and revealing revelation.
Once back in the room, I picked up my cell phone and called him. I don’t think that I knew what I would say until the words were said.