Her Story: How I’ve Redefined Retirement

 “Aha! It’s not about the other side of work…just a continuum of life’s journey.”

By Guest Blogger Iris E. Holliday

In May 2016 I retired from a 27-year fulfilling career of corporate philanthropy and community engagement, and from a work life that had spanned nearly 45 years.

I had been practicing for this significant change for a few years, like a doodler, as the birthdays went by. It became an obsession to see how many words began with “re-” as in the word “retirement.” All said, I amassed over 100! These included re-invent, refresh, reverb, regain and recalibrate. I was struck by their positivity in contrast with the word retirement…as in final, the finale, end, terminus.

The work ethic is strong within me, forged by loving parents – a conscientious father and a precise, efficient and maybe perfectionist mother. So to retire has been alternately exhilarating and excruciating.

While I had a loose plan for my time in this part of my life, I did not have a Gant Chart or dot-by-dot picture.

I have tossed the business cards and replaced them with a Twitter account. I’ve turned once-infrequent business lunches with colleagues who became friends into opportunities for leisurely discourse. The talks are no longer dictated by work etiquette and can be both politics and prose. It’s all on the table. The language can be colorful and candid. After all, I am only representing me!

So what does this new, no phase- or chapter-labeled retirement look like? I still have a stack of curated retirement planning books, articles and listing of websites to review, and I am still pursuing personal goals. Some days it’s like a staycation or sabbatical. Other days, it is an endless quest to cram in as much living and learning into 24 hours as I humanly can.

Many years ago I realized that it is not age that terrorizes me, but the state of irrelevancy. The cure for this is not in a jar of designer wrinkle-reduction cream, but in the endless embrace of knowledge, connecting with people where there is dynamic chemistry, in daily gratitude for family and those whose spirits abide in our hearts, and in our power to empathize and commit to serve others with what God has given us in resources.

This new world is vastly uncharted. It is kind of a “choose your own adventure” era. At this point, I can redefine myself on any terms that I’d like.

Each day is an affirmation of worth and grace, both of which include a rich work life – then and now. There is no “other” side of work, unless I say so. Aging is part of this plane. The relevancy is in my court. And I have hit hard the re-set button as part of my continuum on life’s journey.

Iris Holliday is a third generation Washingtonian (Washington D.C.), a Cruzan (St. Croix) and Hoosier (Indiana), and both a Howard University University Bison and VCU Ram. Her career in public relations spans 35-plus years. Now, retired from Dominion Energy (formerly Dominion Resources), Iris counts philanthropy and government-, media- and community relations in her portfolio. During her career, she advanced the reputations of government entities, corporations and nonprofits, including for the 10th Pan American Games in Indianapolis and as director of corporate philanthropy and community partnerships with Dominion prior to retiring in 2016. Because she lives by the Sufi saying: “Some people go to a beautiful place, others go to make a place beautiful,” community engagement through volunteerism is a key part of her life. In this vein, she was chairperson of the Children’s Museum of Richmond Board of Directors and served on the Community Foundation of Greater Richmond and the Jenkins Foundation Board of Trustees. Currently pursuing a certification in Museum Studies, she is interested in opportunities to knit public relations with the museum field. She recently accepted an internship with the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia and is assisting with collections management.

Her Story: The Risks and Rewards of a First Step

By Guest Blogger Belinda Todd

I am an actor. This avocation is not about the paycheck, nor is it about recognition. It is an innate something that makes me want to see the world through characters often different from myself.  It is fulfilling a dream.

However, fear almost made me cancel my first audition. The afternoon appointment was set and I arrived at the theater early. Before I could turn off the engine, the mind chatter began: “Are you crazy! Who do you think you are? You will be laughed at!”

Too nice to be a no-show, the integrity of my word compelled me to open the car door and channel an inner diva. I strolled into the theater like I belonged there.

When the audition was over, I was ecstatic, invigorated! I was finally feeding my interests. The director had said she would get back to me in a few days. Three weeks later I had given up hope of being in this performance. Then the e-mail came, offering me the part of Reba in Before It Hits Home, a play by Cheryl L. West.

The play was well received and my performance was good – not stellar, just good. But I was hooked. I was in a new tribe—a community of talented artists.

Today, my credits include television, stage, commercials, and most recently, film. I am so glad that on that fateful day, I took the first step.

The first step begins the journey to nurturing your goals and developing your talents. The first step takes you outside your comfort zone and into your dreams. The first step is a signal to the universe to prepare the way. If you don’t take the first step, you’ll never know what could be.

You see, I am a black woman over 50. The odds of venturing into new territory were not in my favor. I have watched too many people give up on their dreams at certain mile markers in life, letting age dictate their fate. But I am daily choosing to see life as a glorious adventure.

I don’t know what it takes to liberate your soul, but I do know that until you do, your light will not fully shine. The first step is embracing the vulnerability that exposes who you are on the inside: your beauty, your talent, your capabilities as well as you weaknesses.

Here is the truth: first steps are scary. It is scary to leave comfortable surroundings, routine living and even old friends. I didn’t know if I could memorize scripts or if I would appear too old with a younger generation of actors. But I had to take a risk. I had to risk looking foolish and out-of-place. Even though I risked ridicule, I didn’t risk my faith in a kind and loving God who sees me and always has my back. I have learned that it can be good, oh so good, to risk the first step.

Belinda Todd is a risk-taker. After retiring from a career with the airlines, img_4841Belinda received a master’s degree in theology, became a certified yoga instructor, and is now studying acting. She is also an Adjunct Instructor in the Languages and Literature Department at Virginia State University. She believes her mission is to inspire and empower women to use their gifts and talents to make the earth more loving, more peaceful and more joy-filled.