Well, it has finally happened.  I just had another birthday and am now eligible for early Social Security benefits. (It is said that a lady does not tell you her age but I’m talking about being alive with the “grace of a woman and not the grief of a child….”)

My dad used to tell me every year for 40 years, on my birthday, “Congratulations, you’re almost grown.” When I reached 41, he stopped giving me that greeting.

For the next 20-plus years, I lived, I thought, like a grown up, exercising all my given freedoms — and then some! But, now, this new status, defined by eligibility for benefits earned from work, puts my life in a new light.

I work because I can.  As a matter of fact, I have been feeding myself for the past three years, as a consultant in my own practice.  It has been slim earnings but then, again, how much do I need to eat anyway?

Just this past New Year’s Day, and in anticipation of my birthday milestone, I decided to re-enter the world of the 9-to-5 again and so I am making a concerted effort to secure a full-time job (with benefits, etc.).  Of the 100-plus reasons for this decision, the one that matters most is that I still define myself, in large part, as a contributor to society and that I expect fair market compensation for my contribution.

And that brings me back to this eligibility subject and the arbitrary alarm bell that rings at ages 62, 66, and, lastly at 70, as an indication of a time to stop working.

I say arbitrary because those numbers are not real measures of my energy, interests and motivation to continue working; that is, contributing to society’s gains.

I know that in this world driven by actuarial science many people my age are already dead, dying or very disabled.  The numbers work for many and, thank goodness, the benefits are available to those who really need them.

But I’m here to declare that I’m not ready!  Heck, I feel that I have at least another good 10 to 15 years left to be productive and I’m in no way tired, or retired.

I’m giving notice.

Antonia Williams-Gary is a consultant with Miami-based Savings and Grace Enterprise. She may be reached at toniwg@bellsouth.net.