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  • Stephanie G Johnson

New Beginnings

In early January 2020, I made the decision to retire early from my 28 year-long career in healthcare. Here’s how I chose my retirement date:

I opened a 2020 calendar, looked at the page, and March 20th jumped out to me. When I looked at the page more closely, it read, “First day of Spring.” I thought, “That’s perfect!!” The first day of Spring symbolizes new beginnings and my retirement certainly qualified as a new beginning. Rick and I can start some new traditions like walking to our local coffee shop for morning cappuccinos, participating in the Parkinson’s Rock Steady Boxing Class as Rick’s “corner” and hanging out with our grand-dudes after school. We recently moved into a new home and were looking forward to hosting a house-warming party--celebrating another new beginning of living in a new home.


Never in my wildest imagination did I envision my retirement coinciding with the COVID-19 global pandemic. Who wants a “do-over?” ME!! And, like so many of us, expectations and routines have required many adjustments. My husband and I are practicing “Safer at Home” and social distancing. No coffee shop dates or boxing classes now. No after school pop-in’s from the ‘dudes. My dad’s 80th birthday gathering in Green Bay was postponed. Many of you are living the “new normal” of working from home while your kiddos are schooling from home.

Here’s the thing: I needed to shift my perspective about “new beginnings.”

  • Facetime, Zoom and Google Hangout are the “new” methods of regular communication with friends and family. Family, connection and presence are the core values I reconnected with when I made my early retirement decision. My sister, Molly, and I now regularly talk via Facetime vs. old school voice only phone calls. I recorded myself reading a story to my 3 y.o. Nephew, Harvey. I’m connecting in a “new” way.

  • I’m much more physically active since retirement by taking Miss Tessa, our 10 year old English Springer Spaniel on 2 walks per day. I also started the Couch to 5K (C25K) app this morning. My goal is to fully run a 5K by mid-May. I’m exercising in a “new” way.

  • Yesterday, while sitting on our screened porch, I heard cardinals, robins, woodpeckers and cranes -- all in the same sitting. I love hearing the sounds of nature in our new neighborhood. I’m listening in a “new” way.

  • I’m focusing a lot more on my breath -- taking a few minutes during the day to breathe deeply and release my worries, anxieties and feelings of uncertainty about how long this crisis will last. And, to help me fall asleep, I discovered a new way to keep my mind from catastrophizing. I go through the alphabet and choose a positive word to breathe in with and breathe out with. In my head, it sounds like this, “A-[deep breath in] abundance in, [deep breath out] abundance out; B-beauty in, beauty out; C-calmness in, calmness out; D-dignity in, dignity out…” I don’t judge the word, I just let it come to me. And, if nothing comes, I repeat the previous letter’s word until something comes forward--it always does. I’m breathing in a “new” way.


What are your own examples of new beginnings? How can you reframe what feels like a limitation to a new beginning? How can your perspective shift to serve you better?


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Stephanie G. Johnson, MSSW, ACC

Madison, WI

​​Tel: 608-469-0336

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