More than year ago, Kevin and I began to plan for the timing of my retirement. Since he had already retired more than a few years ago and because he loves his life as retiree, he was ready for me to take this life-changing step. About 9 months ago we decided that an extended trip would be a great way to celebrate the next phase of our life. The reasoning escapes me right now but we landed on Central America as a destination.
Six Months and Counting:
Then came the difficult step of actually making the commitment. About six months ago I told my boss that I would plan for March 1st – a date with no good rationale however it was as good as any other date. (Leaving for vacation on March 3 was carefully thought out, however, for all of the reasons you can imagine). A six month notice would give my boss enough time to recruit for a replacement and personally I thought it would give me enough time to do the personal work that goes along with making such a huge personal change. My sense was that I needed to prepare in the same way as one prepares for other major life changes such as having children or being an “empty-nester”.
Withdrawal from the Addiction to Work:
Withdrawal from a lifetime of professional work would require me to tackle the difficult process of making an identify shift. While I knew I was ready to have more time to do the things I couldn’t do as a full-time worker, my desires alone wouldn’t guide me through the emotional aspects of this life transition. While I have experienced as least some level of addiction to the compelling and exciting aspects of my work, my desire to have “time” to enjoy life was a strong opposing force. I was ready to begin the process of “letting go” of my professional identify and the associated rewards.
Preparation: Big and Small
The following are some but certainly not all of the steps I have taken to prepare for the transition:
Clothing: Because the type of clothing we wear can be viewed as a component of one’s identify, approximately a year ago I begin to purchase less professional wear (especially suits) and have focused on wearing more casual clothing to work.
After the close of each season, I gave away at least some professional clothing from that season.
Professional reading and resources: About the time I announced my retirement date, I began to substantially reduce the amount of professional reading and acquisition of new professional knowledge. More often than any time in my career, I deleted informational email messages pushed to my account, especially if they were focused on acquiring new knowledge.
Change in focus: Instead of focusing on being personally successful, my goal with staff in my work area was focused on helping them to go through a leadership transition. (This may have helped me more than it helped the staff).
Living in 2 Worlds: For the past six months, I was conscious of the fact that I was living in two worlds – as if I was betraying my employer by having an affair with retirement. The world of “I really need to not care about this because I’m retiring” competed with “I am still in a job and while here, I need to do what is expected of me”. These were rough waters to sail.
Talk about Retirement: While it was difficult to discuss the excitement of retiring at work, because I have a number of friends and family members in the same age group, we spoke often about our plans to retire. Ed, John and Kathleen – 2 BIL’s and good friend are retiring within days of me. Kathleen helped me to name and frame ‘retirement grief” one experiences, just like any other loss we experience. Believing it would help my emotional journey, I saw a therapist for a single visit. As a person in the same age group as me, I could tell that she hadn’t thought about this next phase of her life – in fact I think my discussion about retirement made her more anxious than I was. No need for a second visit with her. I bailed.
Work Hours: To the degree possible, I have worked fewer hours in the past six months, and have done less work at home. While this was very difficult in a job with great demands on my time, it helped me to spend more time engaging in leisure activities. I found that the more time I had, the more I wanted.
No doubt there are many aspects of retirement which I’ve not prepared for such as how it will feel to not have a professional identity or what it will be like to not have the intellectual stimulation of which is derived from being with work colleagues. While I may not have prepared for all that is ahead, I am certainly ready to not get up and go to work five days a week as I’ve done for the past 40+ years.
A leisurely morning cup of Jo sounds good to me right now.
I’ve always thought professors are fortunate in that many or most of them get the opportunity to take a sabbatical – just time away to focus, re-focus, discover or study. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say that’s what I’m doing for the next several months. This week I will be retiring from my professional work/job in healthcare. Two days later we’re hitting the road for two months – a time to travel, to learn, to celebrate retirement for both Kevin and me (his is a belated celebration as he’s been retired for 8 years), to contemplate the next steps and to enjoy life.
As you can guess, sewing isn’t a part of life during our travels. While I don’t feel a need for a sabbatical from this creative form, it will be interesting to see how several months away helps me to reflect and decide on the next steps for my future. While I don’t plan to work professionally, I definitely will plan to be involved in some type of work that stimulates my creative side and it likely will be sewing or fabric related.
From Sewing to Travel Blog
The upshot is that for the next 2 months this blog will be focused on travel as opposed to sewing, family and other aspects of life. Please join me as I share our travels with you. I’ll try hard to find some sewing, fabric or fiber arts to share along the way but either way the posts will be replete with Central American culture.
Please bookmark this site, add it to your RSS feed or just stop by from time to time. Either way, you are all invited to join Kevin and me on this adventure, sabbatical or vacation. There won’t be any sewing patterns or tutorials but hopefully there will be a few photos and some interesting details to share..
Now that I’ve made the decision and my retirement date is set, I regularly find myself dreaming about what life will be like when I:
Don’t need to get up and go to work every day
Will no longer have a professional identity
Can wear blue jeans every day
Have the option to accomplish the goals I set for myself
Will have much more time to sew, read, travel, bike and cook
A Dry Run
This past week Kevin and I took a road trip to see autumn in the Carolina’s . We drove down the eastern shore to Charleston, SC, retreated to North Carolina’s Smokey Mountains and drove back to Philly by way of the Virginia’s, Maryland and Gettysburg. This was a wonderful fall get-away and an opportunity to begin the process of separating emotionally from my job.
This week was a time to think and talk about what it will be like to be retired. I found myself wondering what will fill the spaces in my brain which are currently occupied by work-related content. What will I do each day? How will my wardrobe needs change? What will I do with all of the shoes that are now taking up residence in my office? What can I realistically add to my bucket list?
Let’s consider the past week my dress rehearsal for retirement. For nearly all past vacations, I would have my Blackberry nearby and would check my email at least once a day (no lectures needed, I know, this isn’t a healthy practice). While I would always enjoy vacations immensely and wasn’t consumed by thoughts about my job, it was always in the back of my mind. Does this mean I wasn’t really on vacation? I don’t think so.
Hmmm. If this was “pass-fail”, I would give myself a “pass”. One whole week without work-related email; it was easy to push thoughts about work out of my mind as we traveled through miles of mountains at the peak of their fall color. My thoughts were consumed with how wonderful it will be to have the gift of time. For now, that alone is unimaginable. Admittedly I was and am self-absorbed about this whole thing, often rationalizing that “after 40+ years in healthcare, I deserve to retire before an arbitrary age set by our social security system”.
The real test is less than 4 months away but in the mean time, I think I’m getting ready for this huge change in my life. For those of you who have preceded me in taking this step, I’m eager to hear about your journey.
You all know that I love sewing, fabric and all things fiber, but for the duration of this blog I’ve not posted much about the “other than sewing” aspects of my personal life (well, except for my husband, children and granddaughters).
In a nutshell, I’m a nurse by training and worked as a pediatric nurse for 25 years. For the past 15 years I’ve worked to improve the safety and quality of healthcare – if you’ve been a recipient of healthcare services lately, you know that’s a job without an end in sight.
All totaled up, I’ve spent more than 40 years working in Children’s Hospitals. I could probably write a book about the Pediatric diseases that were common in the early 70’s and thankfully are no longer seen today. Likewise there are new diseases that were non-existent years ago. My work has been and continues to be very gratifying.
Despite my love for the work, the time is coming for me to pass the baton to another leader. So my boss has sufficient time to recruit for a replacement, I gave notice months ahead of time. Today the announcement came out – I will retire at the end of Feb. This will give Kevin and I the opportunity to travel and of course, I’ll be able to dream about my next career, albeit part-time.
We’re planning a post-retirement trip to Central America but as yet I’ve not landed on my next calling but as you can guess, fiber or fabric will be in the equation. Stay tuned.