Retire? Never. The week after I retired, a reporter called to interview me about a project. At the end of the interview, she asked how I wanted to be identified. I could not get the words “I am retired” out. Fast forward ten years and I am delighted to use the “R” word.
My daughter tells me the only thing retired about me is my paycheck. So what happened between the “gag” and my current embracing of retirement? I discovered that retirement does not follow the dictionary definition “removal or withdrawal from service, office, or business.” Rather it is about the transition of leaving one’s major work and moving on. It is about “getting a life.” In my interviews and focus groups for my books on retirement, I found that retirees are creative as they craft new paths.
They can become:
- Continuers who modify their former lives but keep engaged in their former life. I am a continuer. I was a professor; now as a retiree, I keep writing books and giving workshops.
- Adventurers who move into new areas. A dramatic example: When his agency was eliminated, the head of it spent many months figuring out what to do. To the surprise of his family and friends he decided to go to school to become a massage therapist. Other examples: a former dean of a college became a docent at an art museum; a stock broker started his encore career working for affordable housing.
- Searchers keep looking for a place that meets their needs and interests and where they are comfortable and can make a contribution. Most of us will be searchers at some time as we try to find our niche. For example: I am a Continuer now but when I stop writing books I will need to search for something new.
- Easy Gliders who are content to go with the flow. As one man said, “I worked all my life. Now is the time to have no agenda and just do whatever I feel like it and whatever comes up.” Some will eventually get bored with that and become Searchers.
- Involved Spectators who can no longer work in their field but are still vitally involved. For example, a retired librarian still visits the library, participates in programs, and takes out books. She is involved but not as a paid employee.
- Retreaters come in two varieties. There are those who pull back from activities to rethink their futures and there are those who pull back because they cannot figure out a new purpose; they can become depressed.
But now comes the important question—how to uncover your passion and purpose? It is often difficult to find a substitute for the work you left behind. But it is important to keep in mind that retiring is like graduating from high school or college. Many graduates need help as they try to figure out their career.
For some, there is floundering. The fortunate ones know exactly what they want to do. One former investigative reporter told me that he could not wait to retire as he was waiting to engage seriously in his art interest.
Many pre-retirees and retirees are troubled about two major things: What will they do in retirement and will they find the energy to commit to something that provides the motivation to get going.
For those who have no clear picture of what they want to do, they need to ask: Do I have something I have always wanted to do? Do I have any regrets that I did not follow an earlier passion? If I don’t have any obvious passions, consider where do I want to spend my energy?
Learning new things?
Working in new areas?
The following suggestions might get you started on a retirement path that hopefully will be exciting and rewarding.
Suggestion 1: Create a Vision Board. Check out the internet for clues about making your board. In a way, it is like brainstorming but putting icons on a board reflecting each vision.
Suggestion 2: Create a Retirement Support Group with others in your same boat.
Suggestion 3: Seek out a career counselor. Retirement is another part of your career development.
Suggestion 4: Read some of the many books on retirement.
And now would I go back to work? No. I like the freedom to follow what comes up, the freedom to be more involved with family, the freedom to look at possibilities I could not have considered before. Is it perfect? No. But it is part of my evolving career development with all the ups and downs connected with living.