By Norma S. Kennedy
One never knows what is right over the horizon, and no matter how much planning and preparing we try to do, life’s biggest decisions often work themselves out even better than we could have anticipated, if we just take time to reflect, trust and act on what truly brings us happiness. One of the biggest crossroads in life for me occurred unexpectedly in January of this year. I had a demanding position as Associate VP for Executive Affairs at East Georgia State College working in the president’s office and managing the Department of Institutional Advancement. During a meeting with our new president during his second week at the college, he asked me to think about what would make me happy professionally. I took his question to heart and began to also think about where I was in life: 62 years old, no other family in Swainsboro, an only child with a mother who needed more and more care, and children and grandchildren who were growing up too quickly. Life just seemed to be passing me by. Deep down I knew what would bring me happiness. I had experienced several major life changes already during the COVID pandemic and had been feeling in limbo. It was time to retire, remove myself from the rat race, and live a relaxed and fulfilling life back home with my mom on St. Simons Island. To say the least, it was difficult leaving Swainsboro this past February, which had been my home for 42 years, and my beloved friends who will always be like family to me, as well as my incredible 20+ year career at EGSC. I was certainly at the pinnacle of my career, but found peace in knowing that as my priorities changed, I was offered a new beginning, as well. My decision to retire turned out to be an amazing gift for me and for my family, and I truly believe it has added at least a decade to my life! For the first two months, I admit I slept A LOT I love not living by a clock! That self-care inspired me to begin doing other things that I had postponed or neglected: beach yoga, walking three miles daily, eating healthier and less food, reconnecting with a spiritual family, long walks on the beach, simplifying my “stuff” and letting go of anything that no longer brought me joy. During this process of self-discovery, I shed a lot, including 68 pounds of excess weight that wasn’t mine to carry any longer. I also stopped using make-up (except for occasional dress-up times!) and my dress code 10 months out of the year is casual, mostly shorts and sandals. I couldn’t have known it in January, but in giving up so much, I gained even more. What a valuable life lesson reminder. If you aren’t familiar with St. Simons Island, I welcome you to visit when you can. My family has called it home since 1937 when my grandfather moved from Canada to work with Sea Island. As a first stop, you should visit the Welcome Center on St. Simons near the Village – not only will they provide useful information, they sell many unique and locally made items that you won’t find in the tourist shops! My favorite times to visit are in the fall and early spring when things are a little slower, and for accommodations, the King and Prince Hotel offers the best ocean-side views. For a great meal and a casual atmosphere with outdoor/indoor dining, try The Half Shell in the Village. Save room for their specialty dessert – you won’t be disappointed! All of the Golden Isles (which includes St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Sea Island) is now a super busy tourist haven, but this unique coastal region still offers a small-town welcoming feel. With a great selection of locally owned restaurants who serve an assortment of fresh seafood and lots of activities and historical sites to see (many at no cost), it’s a perfect family or couple destination that’s less than three hours away. I promise, once the sand gets in your shoes, you’ll never want to leave!
So as you can see, life has come full circle for me with my return to this beautiful island I am fortunate to once again call home. And as I reintegrate myself into a quieter, simpler life, living life by the tides rather than by the clocks, I give thanks every day for the wonderful life and friends I left behind in Emanuel County. There are no “goodbyes,” just “see you later!”