This is Barbara Mock's First weekly journal entry. She has agreed to come on the show on a monthly basis to tell us what is going on with her retirement journey. She's also keeping a journal so we can keep up with her in between podcast episodes, and frankly, so she can remember what was happening in her life during the weeks between our visits.
We both hope you enjoy this new format.
Today is the first day of a 12-month project that I’ll be working on with Kathe Kline from Rock Your Retirement. I’m excited about participating, but a little nervous. Kathe indicated that I need to be open, transparent, and vulnerable which I’m willing to do, but sometimes thinking about that ahead of time can be a little intimidating.
I’ve decided that I’m going to retire on March 28, 2021, and her project is to track someone who’s going through the process of planning to retire, the steps to the actual retirement, and then what happens afterward, all during a one-year timeframe.
I’ve been working for Snohomish County Planning and Development Services for over 43 years. In fact, on March 28, it’ll be my 44th work anniversary, which is the reason I chose that date. It seems to bring to a close, a long career on a significant milestone. April Fool’s Day doesn’t seem like a great date to choose!
Why am I retiring? I decided about a month ago around the end of June. The idea came to me during a furlough which was mandated due to forecasted budget challenges for Snohomish County, triggered by the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. With no specific vacation plans that week, I was playing with my grandkids at what we called “Nana Camp”. At the exact same time, I was filing for stand-by (unemployment) with the Washington State Employment Security Department for the first time in my life. Since I started working at age 16, I have never been unemployed. At that moment, I recognized that two of my four grandchildren, who happen to live within an hour of our home, are aged 8 and 7. I thought – “I’m in the window and it will close in five short years”. I believe that the time between ages 8 and 13 is precious and fleeting. I asked myself why should I spend it working when financially I really don’t need to? Why not spend it with them?
County offices and my place of employment are located in the City of Everett, just a few blocks from the hospital that diagnosed and treated the first known case of COVID-19 in the United States. This was at the end of January of 2020 and all of us seemingly went about our day-to-day lives not fully understanding the threat to our individual health and to the fiscal security of our country that we would soon be facing. Our extended family, comprised of eight adults and nine kids even took a vacation to Puerto Vallarta in the third week of February! That was the last time we had a vacation together or have been on a plane.
Governor Jay Inslee issued a series of Executive Orders in mid-March as part of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy initiative for Washington State. The goal was to flatten the curve of a pandemic that was erupting in a nearby town south of our home in Kirkland, Washington. Our county executive, on the advice of our health district, also issued an order to close county offices to the public and transition as quickly as possible to remote work wherever possible.
Starting on March 12, along with nearly 90% of my department, I began working exclusively from home. In fact, because of the risk factors identified by health officials, which is my age, I left the house only twice during the time between the shutdown of Washington State and my furlough at the end of June, a period of over 3 months.
Emotionally this time has been very difficult. As an extreme extrovert that thrives on a person to person interactions, I have felt lost and detached. Much of my work involves bringing diverse ideas and people together to envision creative solutions for our future. Now, there are no more brainstorming activities with employees in an energetic dynamic work environment.
Physically it was even worse. I could no longer go to the gym several times a week and I was sitting at my computer 8 – 10 hours a day. It was shocking how quickly I reverted to horrible habits like drinking one or two glasses of wine every night before bed, not taking walks, literally not going anywhere. Snacking was my downfall. Every day felt like groundhog day, I became sad and depressed.
While I didn’t mind not having a terrible commute, staying home every day was hard. At least at work, I had to walk from my car to the office and could take the stairs to meetings. After the shut down I was barely moving.
Spiritually, I have felt detached from close friends, church services were canceled and our weekly small group stopped meeting because our leader was a family doctor and felt it would be too dangerous for us to be together.
Family dinners, holiday gatherings, and time with our children and grandkids ended for us. Not being able to see each other or get and give hugs is soul-wrenching.
However, in many ways, I feel blessed. I’m thankful and grateful that I have a job, I’m able to work remotely, I have a home, and plenty of food. I have the ability to walk a road and woodland trail near my house and I have Netflix, cable, and a computer connection. My husband retired at age 60, three years ago. He has been running the house and doing a great job of it while I have continued to work full-time as a Planning Director. He does all of the laundry, housework, errands, home maintenance, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. He even does the dishes. We have been married for 40 years and I’m so appreciative of his support.
I’ve been eligible to retire for quite some time but I always said to myself and others, “when I’m not having fun anymore it will be time to go” but “I want to leave well.”
I’ve considered our financial situation, my dreams for the future, and a desire to make a positive impact on my precious grandchildren. These thoughts have been contrasted with a growing understanding that with a pandemic raging across our nation nothing in our lives is sure, our future is not guaranteed and life is short. For these reasons I’ve made the important decision to start what some people have referred to as the “third chapter” of my life.
I’m not sure what the future holds for me or this project with Kathe. However, I’m willing to share my journey with you as authentically and honestly as I can. My hope is that it might help some of you facing similar decisions and challenges. I’m truly inspired by her work, the people I have listened to on her radio show, and I’ll be learning along with you about the steps to re-imagine the next third of my life.
Barbara is the new star of the Rock Your Retirement show! For one year, she'll let Kathe Kline tag along as she goes through her retirement journey.