The natural order of things

Gary Lawrence

“If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit – you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.” Paul “Bear” Bryant

It has been said the life cycle contains numerous traumatic events. The death of a loved one, divorce, being fired, and moving to a new location are generally cited as the top four trauma-inducing events in any given life span. “Death and Taxes” were the only certainties Benjamin Franklin could articulate. Given all of those life altering complexities, retirement should certainly rank low on the trauma scale and high on the celebration scale. Such is the cycle of life.

Engaging retirement is a natural progression in the life cycle. I’m pleased to say it comes significantly easier than most of those other traumatic life cycle milestones. All you have to do is learn to “let it go.”

Yes, “let it go” as in how easy it was to come to terms with the fact that my daughter’s marriage meant she had found a man more important to her than me. “Let it go” as in how easy it was to come to terms of departure when that same daughter’s husband deployed for Iraq and again later for Afghanistan. “Let it go” as in how easy it was to come to terms with the realization that her departure preceded by her two brothers’ earlier departures meant my wife and I were now that endearing cliché known as “empty nesters.” “Let it go” as in how easy it was for my wife to relocate more than nine times to new communities while I chased the dream of a perfect career. As the natural order of things would have it, the exchange all of those “letting go” events was seven beautiful grandchildren whom we adore.

I have been in the newspaper business for 42 years and I have now reached that time in life where it is time for me to “let it go.” I enter retirement ever mindful and hopeful that somehow along the way, I did something in my professional career that somehow made things better. I remain uncertain of that fact, which might be why “letting it go” appears to be something of a mysterious challenge.

What I can say about my career is that it was exciting, challenging, and somehow entertaining for me. In the 42 years spanning that career, I can honestly say I never approached a day when I dreaded coming to work. It has been an amazing ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute.

Additionally, I ‘d like to think I somehow made it better. Hopefully some of the folks who were my superiors, my peers, or my subordinates took something positive from their experience with me. While I’m certain I took a lot more from them than I was able to return, I rest easy knowing I tried my best to equalize the enrichment of exchanges I was privileged to have with them. To each of them I’d hope I could be remembered in their professional lives as someone who was totally transparent in my dealings with them and that I never knowingly misrepresented anything to them.

I saw what attempts to be anything but truthful had done in workplace environments as against my nature. Besides that lying was simply too complex for my simple mind. Accordingly, I never had to remember which lie was told to whom before I could communicate with someone else about the details of a particular event. I’m convinced that approach may have cost me a promotion or salary increase here or there, but I remained convinced that position was best for all in the long run. In any case, it made it easier for me to rest at night.

A lot of folks have asked “what are you going to do now?” Bear in mind most all of those folks know me and my wife well enough they’re pretty sure she’s not going to be keen on the notion of my being under foot 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For reasons unclear to me, she’s allowed me to hang out with her for more than 35 years, so she’s pretty well served her sentence and long since earned her parole. Having me underfoot all the time would be akin to being held for trial twice for a single offense.

So for the sake of everyone’s sanity I guess, I’ll do something, somewhere, but don’t know. She ask me a long time ago what I might do when I retire and I told her my goal was to become a greeter at Walmart. She responded “You don’t have the personality required to be a greater at Walmart.” I’m still not exactly certain what she meant by that observation. In the end, I’m fortunate that whatever I do at this point, it will be because I want to, not because I have too. I’m thankful for that too.

So there you have it, a simple retirement benchmarked in my life cycle as Sept. 14, 2015. Part of the natural order of things. Part of the concept of a life cycle. I embrace it with an attitude conveyed by the opening statement of one Paul “Bear” Bryant of this epistle; I’d like to think I entered my career and evolved to a “winner.” It’s now my goal to remain one during this retirement process.

When I came to Mount Airy eight years ago, I knew early on this is where I wanted to be when this retirement moment came. I wish each of you could have a life cycle that included the professional challenge and reward I have and personal love of a partner I have been fortunate to a part of for 35 years. Heck, when you’ve got that going for you, retirement should be a snap, right? Now I’ll start working on that “letting go” thing.

Roll Tide

Gary Lawrence

Gary Lawrence Lawrence
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