What Does My Retirement Mean to Me?
By Catherine Lopez-Brown
After being retired for two years, I began to feel like I needed to have a purpose in life. What am I going to do with all the education and training I worked so hard to get for the last 35 years? I climbed the mountain to become a teacher and now it seems like something is missing. I had a mission before, to teach my students well. Being retired now and having lunch with friends is not enough.
As a very young child, I loved creating clothes for my dolls. I don’t think I knew what a fashion designer was but as I grew older and started making my own clothes for school. I learned to create beautiful clothing that was inexpensive. My sister and I had one of a kind outfits made from Simplicity patterns and the fabric of our choice. We were lucky to live on a farm with seven acres of apple trees. My mother would sell a couple of bushels of apples and then we would go to TG&Y to buy fabric. I loved the way new fabric smelled and I loved the feel of the fabric in my hands. I loved having the prettiest clothes at school.
I was always very shy. I don’t think I talked to anyone. I joined 4-H when I was very young, at about age eight. I stayed in 4-H until I was eighteen. I learned to sew and cook, yes! But more importantly I learned to talk! I gave speeches and talks called demonstrations. I was chosen one of five in the state of New Mexico to go to a 4-H Youth Conference in Washington, D. C., when I was sixteen. I was from a small town. I went shopping in Albuquerque for school clothes once a year.
I didn’t want to get married out of high school, because I didn’t want to be trapped. I wanted to see the world. I went to NMSU for three years. Then I did get married and had two wonderful sons who are married now and wonderful sons of their own. I divorced their father after seven years of marriage and raised my boys alone, finished college with a teaching credential.
When I graduated from college, I used my tax refund check and went on a European vacation. I visited ten countries in eighteen days. I saw the Northern Lights in Lucerne, Switzerland, swam in the Mediterranean Sea, went on canal boat and was sung to in Venice. I climbed the highest castle tower in Segovia, Spain.
Most days though, I spent going to school each day with a smile because I loved teaching and taking my boys to baseball and football practices and games. One spring day I was invited to climb a mountain with a group of high school students. I climbed highest peak of the Organ Mountains! I was surprised to see a carpet of ladybugs at the top. I didn’t want to go to the top. I begged them to come back for me, I made it. I was very sore for two weeks and had to pluck out 100 little cactus thorns in my arms. I was wearing long sleeves. I was amazed that I could do it.
Retirement allowed me to return to those childhood memories. Retirement gave me the freedom to explore the more creative areas of my brain. At first, I wrote a short book about each of my seven grandchildren and made up lively adventures. Then I started volunteering at a charitable organization. I had the idea that I could teach people who were out of a job how to be an entrepreneur, but I had different people each time.
I kept going to look at the closet full of beautiful fabrics I collected over the years waiting to become beautiful creations, just waiting for me to start my new business. I started making decorative carpet bag backpacks and tried selling them on ESTY. I sold one, gave away six.
Now I have the time and the freedom to take business classes and start my own business. I learned how to create a website, ordered business cards, and wrote an elevator speech. I intend to sell the clothing I create for an underserved market. When I go shopping I notice that there’s not much variety for people over the age of 55. The clothing styles are either too low in the cleavage, see-through, tight and are limited to different varieties of plaid for men.