In 2011, after 37½ years of working in the same industry, for the same company, I retired from Bright House Networks. For 30 of those years, I served as vice president and general manager of the Manatee County operation.
Since my retirement, no fewer than a thousand people have asked me the same questions: "What was the hardest part of retiring?" Do I miss being 'the boss'? How did I prepare to retire? Did I lose my identity as an active participant in the community? And, most importantly: How have I changed since retiring?
The hardest part of retiring is that I miss the special relationship I had with my employees. Those who know me know I loved my job, and particularly loved the special people who worked with me for so many of those years. They were hard-working and loyal, and I attribute the growth and success of our business to the heart and soul they put into each day's work.
In many ways, they were ahead of their time with such projects as producing and providing local high-school football on pay-per-view channels, long before most sports networks knew it would be a popular program. They also designed and built a computer network inside our office building before most even dreamed of communicating by email.
I could go on and on. But my point is: I miss them and treasure the wonderful memories of everything we accomplished together.
No, I don't miss being "the boss," nor do I miss the responsibility of being a local CEO and being on call 24/7. I don't miss the treadmill of having to make snap decisions on the run and answering hundreds of emails a day. Leaving that behind has been one of the biggest joys of retiring.
Preparing to retire was easy for me. Beyond the obvious financial front-work with professionals that is vitally important, preparing emotionally was just as important.
Once I knew it was time to exit my career, I began to seriously plan what I would do with my time. I remembered the advice of my mentor and former boss, Jeff McQuinn, who told me that everyone should have a passion about something other than work before they stopped working.
It could be family, travel, religion, charity work, sports, reading, or any hobby.
Fortunately, I have a passion for all of those, so it was easy to envision what I would do with my time once I no longer worked 40-50 hours a week. I knew I could easily fill those hours -- but the real challenge was how to fill them meaningfully. I still wanted to be useful and didn't want to lose my identity.
About a year after I retired, I found a new way to contribute to the community and to the next generation. I was asked to work part time at St. Stephen's Episcopal School as director of endowment. I am delighted to be working once again with a tremendous group of hard-working professionals who are making a difference in the lives of many students, in the future of the school and, hence, making a difference in the world.
So I am still a useful member of the community and I still have my identity -- it's just a new one.
How has retirement changed me? The best thing about retiring is that I now have the luxury of inner peace. No longer am I a slave to clocks and endless meetings. I have quiet time to think and consider my words before speaking them and my actions before taking them. I can think through decisions more fully. It seems I am becoming the kind of person I never seemed to have time to develop.
So my advice to anyone who is beginning retirement: Make sure you are prepared to have an adventure. You will be busy. Do everything you can to stay healthy. Take the time to keep your life meaningful and be mindful in every decision you make. Understand you have reached an age where you are a natural role model for others, so make decisions and take action with that in mind.
Here's hoping you enjoy this stage of your life as much as I am enjoying mine.
Rose Carlson, retired VP/GM Bright House Networks, is currently director of endowment for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School. You can contact her at rrpcarlson@ aol.com.
COMING NEXT SUNDAY: Becky Canesse, CEO of Manatee County Girls Club Inc., asks: Do you ever wonder how you came to be who you are?