Retiring From a Profession, Not Life….. With No Regrets.

Happy New Year!

For many, January marks the beginning of retirement and right now it feels like being on vacation. There are no more commuting hassles, meetings or deadlines to worry about, and plenty of time to work out or stop by the local coffee shop and read the print or electronic edition of their favorite news source. However, for some, the newness soon wears off, and the joy of unstructured time becomes a burden. Some begin to question their sense of purpose, self worth, and the strength of their financial portfolio.

However, there are those who embrace retirement with a strong sense of purpose, hobbies, and a lifestyle plan.

Meet Cindy Manley-Fields.

In May, 2018, I ran into Cindy while working on a project at UC Berkeley. Cindy and I met in junior high school in Southern California, then both of us moved north and ended up again at the same junior high and high schools in Oakland, California.

Cindy was beaming with excitement at having less than a week before she retired from UC Berkeley as a Student Academic Advisor.

I asked her  “How do you feel about retiring, and what now?”

Here is what Cindy had to say:

I believe attitude makes all the difference in the world.

Your conversation can be about getting old, hurting joints, and negative self talk or you can see it as new opportunities, and finding your voice; knowing what you like and dislike, and being able to express it without worrying about what others think of you or how they will react.  It’s called being grown.

I love being grown!  I can speak out and be who I am because I am all that! I have paid my dues, and now get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.  I always joke with folks, saying “I am a Queen and I love this Queen!” People sometimes look at me funny, but I don’t care, because I love myself and I love all of me!  When you love yourself, you are good to yourself, you are happy, and you thrive.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a 60 year old, I see Cindy, I see this vibrant woman who loves life, who loves doing things, staying busy and still learning every day.  I find conversations with my “gurls” exciting… a lot of “remember this and remember that.” Its all awe!
We know we are changing, because of the physical changes happening to our bodies, but we don’t let them change our spirit or our hearts.


A few months ago, I got together with a group of women from middle school, and it was so refreshing to hear about everyone’s journeys and struggles.  Our conversations went from family, marriages, divorces, infidelity, sex, and kids. Nothing was off limits!  We learned about each of us and how we have grown over the years.  Everyone was 59 or 60, and they all looked good and it appeared life was good.  That is all we can ask for.

Each part of our life is a journey… its like two roads not taken.  We never know what it has in store for us.  We pray for all sunshine,  but there is rain, which makes us grow stronger.  Each stages of life presents it’s own challenges.   My life changed drastically when I was in my early 20’s. My mother died when I was 23, and my dad remarried within 2 months of her death.  What I knew as a close knit family disappeared for a while. For the first time in my life,  I felt lost and alone, because my mother was the nucleus of the family and she was gone. I was also madly in love with my first love, who around the same time dumped me for someone else. Hard times, but it made me the strong black woman I am today. You never know your strengths until you are challenged.

In my 30’s I got married and had 2 children.  I married a man who had a large family, so I was back into family, and my immediate family started mending.  As I look back, I realize family and close friends are my joy.   My 40’s were filled with kids growing up, and lots of family events…. all good!

In my 50’s, my marriage was challenged, and it was then that I learned to love myself just the way I am. I think as women, we play so many roles that we discount how we feel and what is important to us because we are people-pleasers.  So here are my important learnings:

  • Don’t take things too seriously, and remember this too shall pass.
  • Don’t compromise who you are.   Love yourself the way you are, and treat yourself with kindness and love…. others will treat you the same.
  • Learn to forgive because it’s for you.
  • Enjoy your family and friends; spend time with them.

In 1981 I began working at UC Berkeley right out of college as the Equipment Manager for Womens Athletics (4 years,) then moved to the College of Engineering (1985), Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, where I was a Software Distribution Manger for 7 years, and then moved into Undergraduate Student Academic Advising for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) and most recently for Bioengineering.  When I was in college I figured I wanted to be a PE Teacher or a counselor, yet I have been an academic adviser for over 20 years, with well over 1,000 students graduated.  It’s a job I have really enjoyed, and loved the fact that I was helping students navigate their way through college.

Cindy3 (2)

Planning for retirement is a must.  I started attending retirement classes at UC  when I was 45, 55 and completed my last class the fall semester before I knew I was going to retire. It helped me understand how social security works, and what kinds of benefits I would have once retired.  I also met with a financial planner at 55 to see if I was on track and if there was anything else I needed to do.

Deciding to work at UC Berkeley has paid off financially because I am able to retire with a pension.  For years everyone around me was making money, but in the end my glory is being able to retire and bring home about 90% of my salary which means I truly get to retire and do what I want.

I noticed when my husband retired he went through a depression, and seemed lost because I think his identity was tied to his job. 

 It’s really important to think about what would you like to do and set a goal for yourself.  I am retiring from my profession but not life.  I plan continue staying busy with photography, jewelry making, shopping and scrapbooking. For over ten years, I have been meeting with with a group of ladies once a month for scrapbooking, and that will continue. Its always a lot of fun! 

My passion is photography.
I always have a camera on me so I will be going on “field trips” to photograph and tell stories through my eyes. I also want to take water aerobic classes in the morning, possibly get an AA or BA degree in photography, take jewelry making classes, travel, and spend some quality time with my husband.  Perhaps in a few years I will teach some of my craft skills.  

I don’t want to be tied down to an obligation, I want to be able to be free to do things spontaneously-its called living.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Cindy is now retired, and I will be checking back with her in a few months to get an update on how the retired life is going.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about how you are embracing your retirement; whether you are still in the planning stages or are living the retired life now!

Faites-en une belle journée!

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