I first met Amoke Awele Kubat at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference in Asheville several years ago where she lead a heartfelt and authentic storytelling workshop for women. I’ve been asking her for years to write something for Oops50.com, and now that she has retired, we are happy to have her blog with us.
Amoke is also a published author of Missing Mama: My Story of Loss, Sorrow and Healing , a deeply personal and universal story of mother loss. She feels that internalized grief, due to loss and trauma, has become as intrinsic as any other internalized oppression.
When I turned 60, I told my daughter that I was having a mid-life crisis. She said that was good. I was going to live to be 120. I replied that I was done. I was done being a teacher, a parent, friend, and associate to a whole lot of emotional entanglements. I no longer wanted to wake up exhausted, give up 15 hours of my day, then come home foraging for energy by over-eating. I started to ponder the possibility of retiring – early.
I started asking women who were retired what life was like after working? Their responses differed. One told me she didn’t like it. Her husband was dead and she was estranged from her adult children. She didn’t have access to her grandchildren. The people at Bingo were her family. Another woman told me that she had “deep cleaned” her house, read one book a week and now was enjoying her first grandchild.
Then I was alarmed by my best friend’s response. She felt guilty. We met when I was 14, almost 50 years ago. She was struggling with being retired. She felt like she was mooching off the government. I hardly contained my tongue. “You are not a slave!” I yelled. “Why do you feel this way?” I asked.
She felt this way because she had not waited until she was 70 to quit working! We both had started working in our early teens.
This list changes frequently.
The sign came. As I checked in for my eye surgery to remove cataracts, the receptionist reviewed my intake information. She noticed my age. She was bubbly. “I’m 62 too,” she said. She also told me that she was retiring in 4 months. I asked what lead her to this decision. She said, “Most of my friends that retired at 66 and older and were dead in 1-2 years. Not me. I want to enjoy my life!” I retired in February 1, 2013.
A “Retiring Mind ” is a danger to itself and others. On the first day I retired, I woke up and shot out of bed as was my normal morning routine. I raced through the house to look outside. I live in Minnesota. Last year this time, it was in the high 70’s. This year we had ice, snow, and single digit wind chills. Then I looked at my Bose. I had a startling revelation. I was not giving “stink eye” to the clock! Time was no longer my adversary! I went skipping through the house. I sat in my rocker naked! I grinned until my face hurt! I began to sing and made up my new life theme songs. “I don’t have to do that”. “I have all the time in the world”. “For the rest of my life”. “I feel like a newly freed slave.” I was giddy with excitement. My mind raced with possibilities.
I have no map for this road trip called retirement. The IRS defines retirement as “willful termination of employment with no intent to seek a new job after age 55”. (Hell yeah!!) I have had to wrestle down the “I gotta do demons”. I have had to harshly counsel myself when my “internal overseer” wants me to “occupy” and “account for” every minute of my time.
I have seen more TV and DVD’s than ever. I am reading until 3 and 4 a.m. I am writing, writing, writing. I am slowly de-cluttering my house of work related stuff. I am telling well-meaning people that I don’t want any more jobs. I don’t want to join them in their projects. I have learned to say no.
I am reacquainting myself with me and the things I love, like music. I played an old favorite, “It’s Raining Men” loudly, repeatedly while singing and dancing with abandon! I am calling one friend a week and having deeper more meaningful conversations.
I have made tender discoveries. Finding a frosted crystal necklace in an old velvet box, I realized I had been saving it to wear on a special occasion. I realized I had never worn it. It shook me to acknowledge that in 25 years, I had not had a special occasion or special day? I wore it all that day.
What I love most about being retired is – simply, being.
Amoke Awele Kubat(M.Ed) is a north side Minneapolis resident who has been involved in empowering families since 1987. She is a teacher, artist and writer who partners with community artists, activists and organizations to bridge African/American culture and cultural legacies for healing and building sustainable families and communities. Amoke uses art making, storytelling and education to women, as mothers and first teachers of their children for mapping memory to generational trauma (personal and systemic) and facilitating healing through individualized action steps for recovery. She has used her skills to work with international youth 12- 25 who participated in The Children of War. She has worked with bi-racial adoptees, Native American, Korean, and African American, to reconnect them to their mother culture and assist them on their journeys to a holistic self- identity and actualization.