At the invitation of AARP, I’ll be attending the Life@50+ National Event in Miami, Florida next week as a social media champion. It wasn’t exactly easy squeezing in a 6000-mile roundtrip for a couple of days between shifts at the hospital, but since my personal mission and AARP’s corporate vision sync so well these days I took them up on their very kind offer.
My Mission and the Vision of AARP
Many years ago, I unintentionally–and apparently irrevocably–offended a friend when she came up with this notion that a little blog project she and I were involved with at that time needed a Mission Statement. She’d been out of the work force for over a decade and didn’t understand that I was suffocating in a dysfunctional corporate culture that espoused a flowery yet meaningless Mission Statement. I told her that the mere thought of having a Mission or Vision Statement of my very own made me throw up a little bit in my mouth.
Back then I didn’t see the point of a blogging Mission Statement because, as you all well know, my one and only mission for blogging was for the freedom to say the eff word on the Internet. It didn’t go any deeper than that and, no matter how you slice it, cussing on the Internet cannot be spun into any sort of meaningful Mission or Vision Statement.
So I find it a little bit funny–although my old friend would probably disagree–that here I am, many years later, writing about Mission and Vision Statements here on my little blog. But, fear not, this isn’t about my blogging Mission Statement. My mission here is still mostly the same; find new and unique ways to say the eff word, but with this small twist:
As God is my witness, blogging will never, EVER, make me cry again!
Calamity as a Catalyst for Change
I’ve observed that human beings have a great capacity for tolerating a high level of misery as long as it’s comfortably convenient, and that no one voluntarily makes drastic changes in their lives unless something significant occurs that jolts them out of complacency. Only when faced with a crisis big enough that inaction becomes more distressing than action are most of us willing to become proactive about changing the direction of our lives. On January 1, 2012, Jeff and I experienced just such a crisis.
After the kids left home, my husband and I had just been getting by. I had my blog and all my internet friends keeping me company and help me escape my unhappy reality, and I left my husband mostly to his own devices. Hours and even days would go by where I’d ignore him with my nose in my laptop laughing and carrying on with the intangible. On the surface, I felt like we were very happy; underneath the surface I didn’t want to look too closely. At least not until that fateful day in 2012 when the walls of our tunnel came crashing down around us and we were spit out into the realization that just getting by wasn’t enough for either of us.
We determined that staying together meant our lives needed purpose and meaning and joy, for both of us. Neither of us could stick our heads into our own private escape worlds where we pretended that somehow it was all going to work out even though we weren’t doing anything constructive to make it so.
Despite my innate aversion of corporate culture lingo, my husband and I developed what would be our vision for the second half of our lives. Creating this vision for our lives wasn’t a planned thing, but more like a process of elimination that included two fundamental premises:
1. Neither of us want to be unhappy.
2. Neither of us want the other to be unhappy either.
After a lot of intensive counseling, and armed with the above two truths, we recommitted ourselves to each other during our 25th anniversary celebration. Then I had major surgery on my lady parts. In September, I launched a doomed business venture, and by December of 2012 we made the decision that I should quit that dysfunctional corporate job that was making us both so unhappy and we should walk away from our irretrievably underwater mortgage.
Despite some serious emotional setbacks experienced during and after the failure of my business, I am proud that both my husband and I have stayed very focused on what matters. In truth, the failure of my business was a direct result of its inability to fit into the clear parameters we’d set back in 2012 that our choices need to make us both happy.
We only get one life, and it is up to us to define our own priorities. Maybe society says we should have a big house, or a job that’s secure no matter how it makes us feel inside. Or maybe society tells us that we should want to be our own boss, pursue fame, popularity, or even influence. But the way I see it, if you are taking medication in order to maintain your sanity so you can have the things society says you should have then maybe it’s time to set some new priorities.
Using mutual happiness as a guideline, here are the top three priorities my husband and I set in 2012 against which all our decisions are measured:
1. Joy – Does this decision bring us both joy?
2. Peace – Does this decision foster mutual contentment and peace of mind?
3. Retirement – Does this decision move us towards our financial goals that include a reasonably comfortable retirement where we’ll be able to continue pursuing priorities 1 and 2?
If the answer to these three questions is yes, then it’s a go. But if the answer to any of them is no, then it’s a “Hell No!” and we move on.
A Dream Home Shouldn’t Be a Nightmare
On Friday, we became the proud owners of 2.5 acres of land where we’ll build our dream retirement home next year. It’s going to be a tough year for us as we both work very hard making the money we’re going to need to make all of this happen while staying committed to joy and peace so that our marriage doesn’t fall out of balance again.
It is because of my priorities that I’m going to Miami to attend Life@50+. When I went last time, I was stunned to find out that AARP is not a club for old people. Today’s AARP realizes that retirement won’t look like it did for our parents and grandparents. Today’s AARP is for people like me and my husband who are busy actively creating the second half of our lives. Membership in AARP opens the door to a world of discounts and other resources to help people over 50 make the most of the second half of our lives.
And just for fun, I’ll be hanging with some cool people including a couple of my favorite bloggers, the GypsyNesters, who just released their best-selling book, Going Gypsy.