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.

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Don’t Give Up On You

By Stacy Hawkins Adams

I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about what mid-life holds. Is it a point at which you look back and reflect on opportunities missed, hopes dashed, dreams deferred and resign yourself to whatever may come?
Or, do you see yourself at 40-, 50- or 60-something (and beyond) on the verge of new opportunities, just waiting to be seized? Your perspective, and the actions you take as a result, make all the difference.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first novel in the Little House on the Prairie book series when she was 65.
One of my mentors sought and obtained her master’s degree in her early 70s.
I read an article recently about Etta Baker, a mother of nine who appeared on her first album recording as a blues guitarist in her 40s and went on to record a solo album at age 78 and perform with musical greats well into her late 80s.
More examples abound.
So what chapters are you continuing to craft for the story of your life?
It’s not over until you decide to stop reaching, seeking, growing and pursuing. If you dream it and put some strategic thought, muscle and focus behind it, you can do it.
Don’t give up on you.