After retiring from Starbucks at the age of 53, Paula Boggs journeyed to her vacation home in Santa Fe, where she suddenly found herself free of the obligations that had shaped her professional life. The phone calls, email notifications and meeting reminders were basically nonexistent. She was living the dream, so to speak, but soon realized that acclimating to this strange and wondrous world was slightly more difficult than she originally anticipated.
“I think ACC members will empathize with being wired to act certain ways, and respond to certain things in studied ways, based on our career,” says Boggs. “Those innate physical and emotional responses don’t stop solely by virtue of leaving a job and deciding to do something else with your life.” Instead, as Boggs knows from experience, “rewiring” your body and mind takes time and discipline. For example, if you normally slept five hours per night throughout your career, you will actually need to train yourself to sleep for seven.
Boggs’ internal clock wasn’t the only thing affected when she retired. Pavlov himself would be proud of the conditioning that in-house counsel are subjected to as part of the job; although, to be fair, it’s these subconscious reactions that make for competent corporate attorneys. For Boggs, however, those lingering impulses now serve little purpose. “It takes time to allow the phone to ring if you’ve programmed yourself to respond immediately to a text message or phone call,” she says.
Certain words — once familiar, but lost over time — might also begin to resurface in your lexicon upon retirement. As she grew accustomed to her new lifestyle, Boggs remembered a strange two-letter word from her past: No. “It takes time to understand that you can actually say ‘no’ to a broader array of things than perhaps was possible when you were working full-time, with a number of people dependent on you.” For Boggs, that simple word gave her a sense of freedom, allowing her to say “yes” to herself more often.
Whether Boggs was learning to sleep longer, ignore those Pavlovian impulses or expand her vocabulary, her transition into retirement took time. Her two-month stay in Santa Fe helped immensely, though. “It helped slow my pulse down, and Santa Fe is such a physically beautiful environment: the colors, the smells, the air … all of that was very helpful to me as a newly minted retiree. It was an amazing, magical time.”
This is the second in a series of blog posts related to Paula Boggs. Tune in next time as we continue to provide insight into her journey.