When I walked out of The Home Depot’s corporate office for the last time and handed in my access badge, my identity didn’t walk out with me. It stayed firmly there – in the huge building that is known as the Store Support Center (SSC) where I worked for 17 years. For all of that time, thousands of associates have known who I am and what I do. An identity is so often connected to a job, that I feel a little stateless. But that’s not a bad thing. I’m now a free agent and the world’s my oyster. Someone dear to me used that phrase when I left Nairobi in my 20s looking for a new life in London. And my oyster made many pearls over the years. I walked into an employment agency on Oxford Street the first day and got a job, contacted friends of friends who had a room to rent and created a life for myself. When I arrived in London, I had with me a suitcase of clothes – a suitcase with a handle – rolling bags hadn’t been invented yet, unbelievable though that now seems – and I had a kikapu or woven basket full of hangers, with the handles tied up with string. I can’t imagine now what I was really thinking, but I had plenty of wooden hangers in Nairobi and I thought it was logical to bring them with me. Many of them had survived boarding school, too. Just one remains after all these years and countless moves, but I treasure it. I was 24 and completely alone in London, but I created an identity and I wasn’t afraid. I’m not afraid now. Within two weeks of arriving in London, I was sent to work as a temporary secretary for a purchasing manager in a container company. His name? Cedric Pierre Marie. No, I’m not afraid because my oyster will continue to make pearls for sure.
So I will build my new identity as a retiree. I’m not in a hurry and an undefined future means there is no pressure on me. Today, I stopped into the SSC to join a celebration with my erstwhile team. The Home Depot’s Homer Fund is funded by associates for associates in need. We had been instrumental in the annual fundraising campaign’s communications and The Homer Fund treated the team to King of Pops (if you are a foreign reader, please look them up.) Free King of Pops are worth making a journey for. It was a great excuse to make a surprise visit and so much fun to see everyone. The most common remark was that I looked so relaxed. Good! Retirement is agreeing with me. The most frequent question was, ” What’s retirement like?” I honestly don’t know the answer to that question yet. I still feel as if I’m on vacation – it’s only been five days so far. Ask me in three months. And as for the question, “Who am I now?” Ask me in a year – by then, I will be reading music (I hope); have finished Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and many more books in the pile beside the bed; have made my Gypsy Wife Quilt (more on that to come); have tidied and cleaned and downsized our stuff so much that Cedric will be job-hunting on my behalf. I might tackle Shakespeare’s sonnets, too. I don’t need to read the plays again – a couple of years ago, I read all of Shakespeare’s plays in one year. That’s what list-people do and that’s definitely going to be the subject of another post. Oh, wait, I just got it … Who am I now? A blogger! OK, I’m done, I have an identity.