I’m not really a Kenny Rogers kind of girl (or should that be “kind o’ gal”?). I know I moved to the country, but that doesn’t mean my taste in music has changed. There is one of his songs, though, that speaks to me – The Gambler. The particular lines I'm talking about are:
You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
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a creek bed near Silverton NSW
By the way, in researching this, I discovered that Kenny didn’t actually write this song. It was written by that powerhouse of country music, Don Schlitz. Don Who? If you don’t know him from his country songs (I certainly didn’t), you may recognise another song he wrote – “When You Say Nothing At All”, most recently popular in its Ronan Keating incarnation. I quite like that song, but I find it to be a real earworm.
Back on track, after that little side-trip, and I’m talking about knowing when to let go. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. How do you know?
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Sturt's Desert Pea, Broken Hill NSW
That was what it was like for me with retirement. As I’ve mentioned before, when I stopped working, I was very reluctant to call it retirement. It made me feel better to just say that I’d stopped working. I didn’t know if I was ready to retire. Part of it was also a reluctance to let go. Work had been such a big part of my life for so long, it was hard to let it go. So I let go gradually.
I worked part-time for a while, and that suited me really well. It gave me the time I needed to experience what it was like not working, and at the same time kept me connected to the work environment. There wasn’t the sudden loss of connections with people and activities that I’d known for so long. It gave me the opportunity to start building up the non-work connections and activities that I would need when I was not working.
Then, the Big Change – stopping work altogether! It was scary, yet exciting, and I wasn’t sure how I would go. So I STILL didn’t really let go. I kept some (not all) of the work people connections. Some friends really didn’t believe that I would stay retired, and I didn’t disabuse them of that, because I didn’t really know if I believed it either.
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lavender in Kangaroo Valley NSW
After some time, I was ready to include work back into my retirement. That may sound strange, but many people partially retire, and I thought that would be good for me. So I did a bit of work. I enjoyed it, mostly, but I noticed that whilst I was still doing the best job I could, and I hope that was good enough for those I was working for, I didn't have the same enthusiasm for it as before.
That work dried up, and it was probably a good thing. I knew I had really let go by my reaction when I went to catch up with a (working) friend. There were all these people sitting around having meetings in the coffee shop, deep in earnest discussion. And I just knew that I couldn't do that and feel I was giving it my best. If I couldn't give it my best, I couldn't do it.
That was me finding out when to fold ‘em. Everyone is different. Some people die at the table! I walked away gradually. For some, they need to run. At some point in the retirement process, everyone needs to let go of work. Trying to work out what kind of letting go is best for you can be hard. One thing I’ve learnt, though, is that, whilst you need to give the option you choose your absolute best shot, it doesn’t have to be the final decision – you can change your mind!
Yep, Kenny, I finally folded, and walked away. I don’t regret it. I did it in the way that worked for me.
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a beach somewhere