June 6th—the date of my last blog post—is an anniversary that I remember each year. Even though it meant nothing to anyone but me, I rushed that post out as a form of commemoration.
On June 6th, 1983, I walked into the IBM site at Kingston, NY and embarked on a 32-year career. The Hudson Valley is the home of IBM, and in those days it was a major legacy employer. Sons and daughters of IBMers grew up and entered the family business. The saying was, “they bled blue.”
I, on the other hand, was the daughter of a stone mason whose father, uncles, and grandfather were also stone masons. I never knew anyone who worked for a corporation—until I walked through that door.
In many ways, it was an odd fit, yet I’ve never contemplated the what ifs of my career. I neither regret the day I walked into IBM nor the day I walked out. Regret, I believe, is a waste of time.
To many, I retired young, or as people love to tell me “too young,” but I’ve loved retired life. In retirement, I’ve been able to live nomadically; in Paris; and near our grandson, Jack, in Charlottesville. In the spirit of continuing to hone my skills into old age, I’ve become most adept at moving around.
Contemplating both my career and subsequent retirement from this lens, I searched for a word that is the opposite of regret and, coming up short, I resorted to google. Their suggestion was happiness or gratitude, but neither of those words exactly work for me.
Perhaps the need for a single word that captures our collective lack of regret doesn’t exist because the word is unique to each of us. Or perhaps it’s because true regret is a deathbed phenomena that leaves no option for further contemplation. In any event, I find this dearth of an antonym puzzling.
But I’m fine with it. This linguistic black hole gives me the option to pick my own word. For me, the opposite of regret is freedom. Freedom to live a life counter to societal norms. Freedom to move when I want. Freedom to deploy to wherever I’m needed for an indefinite period of time.
Janice Joplin once sang that “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” I think I’m ok with this as long as “nothing” is confined to objects. As I’ve reduced the objects in my life, it does feel as though a weight has been lifted. In the absence of their constraint, I am more free.
As we come out of COVID, our travel has resumed. I’m writing this from Paradise Valley, Montana where our younger son and daughter-in-law now live. Our travel plans are filling up this year and are now sloshing into the next. Settling down, it seems, simply isn’t for me.
I recognize that this freedom is both a privilege and a gift, and it’s one that I don’t take lightly. It was fostered in me as the daughter of a travel-obsessed stone mason, was funded by IBM, and has been reconstituted more recently by a Pfizer scientist.
As I venture off, I thank them all.