An Indecisive Retirement: A Story of the Struggle of Heart versus Mind

retirement vancouver

 “May your choices reflect you hopes, not your fears.” ~Nelson Mandela

I have come to appreciate this quotation sitting in my condo overlooking the Coal Harbour marina, the bay and the mountains in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada reflecting on the tornado of activities of the last six weeks that preceded this wonderfully sunny and breezy day.

Earlier this year, I unexpectedly made a life decision to forgo an anticipated retirement in San Diego, with its awesome annual weather, to take an executive role at a small Canadian biotech advisor group.

San Diego had been home, off and on, for almost 24 years and I had become quite comfortable with my life and my friends, shopping and services, doctors and all the support for a happy life.  It was all familiar and fairly easy and I had just completed training to become a wellness coach to support my retirement.

My logical mind told me “you are all set” but my heart had other ideas.

I had always wanted to live in Canada, having visited a number of times, enjoying the natural environment and its people.  The atmosphere here seemed intelligent yet restrained compared to the east or west coast of the US, where I have lived and diversity is celebrated here.

A job offer that was hard to refuse emerged from a complex series coincidences and I unexpectedly accepted.  Uprooting was going to be very inconvenient but it felt right.

I also decided to move only my car, clothes and cat and a few personal and household items.  Selling and disposing of almost everything I owned over a very short period of time was daunting and exhausting but I somehow considered it a necessary step.

As I went through all my stuff, I found pictures, mementos, items linked to past endeavors, relationships, triumphs and challenges.  I sold and donated items that were gifts, sports equipment from my competition days and other items with life stories attached to them.

As I recalled these memories, I realized that rather than labeling the past “good” or “bad” that everything has simply served to get me to this present moment.  Through it all I had become a better person and I am grateful.
Having reflected on my past, I gained confidence for handling the present moments ahead and the inevitable uncertainty.  Instead of mourning my losses, they energized me.  Cleaning out the old just made room for the new and the past was appreciated without being relived.

So, I have now changed my job, location, country, friends, habits, furnishings,  environment, weather and local laws and customs but I feel empowered and curious.

I am now working with a diverse array of small companies in the fields of stem cells, 3-D printed tissues, long acting arthritis therapies and two novel cancer products, among others.

Instead of retiring, I have been reborn.  I’m having a blast!

I have always been intrigued by what causes people to become set in their ways, with familiar faces and places and expectations.  I believe it’s a sense of security and a response to the incessant, drumbeat of danger magnified in the news and social media. With it, the mind can block out messages from the heart and hijack decision making or trigger analysis-paralysis.  There will always be a reason not to do something new.

My journey to Canada helped me conclude that a person’s mind serves, in part, to protect them, but with a strong perception of fear, at some point is serves to insulate them from new experiences and challenges of life that may contribute to their own personal evolution and happiness.

My journey has taught me:

    to listen to my heart regarding important life decisions,that desires lie on the other side of inconvenience and fear andthat past experiences foster confidence for new challenges


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About Gina Stetsko

Gina is currently working at Novateur Ventures, Inc. in Vancouver, B.C. as the Head of Product Development and Manufacturing. In this role she will be assisting executives and company staff with strategic decisions, technical issues, regulatory concerns and managing outsourcing. Gina holds a BS degree in Pharmacy and a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences. After 32 years in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, culminating in a number of senior executive positions and directly managing staff in the US, UK, Ireland and France, Gina has now incorporated personal growth and wellness approaches to collaborations and outsourcing. Incorporating these approaches in a technical business setting was driven by her personal struggles, as well as experience helping others in different cultures, with their unique personal growth. She lives by three simple principles: Tell the truth; Do the right thing; Be kind.

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