Knowing when to call it quits!

Working towards the decision to leave your full time work life after 30 plus years can be a process fraught with emotional ups and downs. After becoming emotionally exhausted while considering all of the possibilities and pitfalls of this decision, consulting my family, and making multiple trips to my financial planner, I decided that leaving full time work sooner rather than later made more sense. Being indecisive about any decision let alone a major life change, can be draining and irritating to those who are closest to us.

So early in 2017, I provided several months notice to my employer and began the process of ensuring all loose ends that I could tie were tied and began the process of saying my goodbyes to colleagues. At this point in the journey, my future horizon seemed to be lined with possibility and excitement. Seeking some guidance about this transition meant that I discovered there was a dearth of resources for someone who is retiring, outside of financial advice and assistance. Even the process of how to access my pension where I worked wasn’t well understood as few people in the organization that I worked for had retired yet!

It is an interesting phenomena that this major life transition doesn’t have an attached and well established industry of retirement coaches, counsellors, and supportive transition networks. Before you actually make the decision to leave a workplace, there aren’t typically many options to help you explore and examine the non-financial aspects of this life change. There are also very few books and online resources, specifically, written about the emotional aspects during the transition to retirement. I found myself searching widely for anything that might serve as a guide.

The resources that I did manage to find, inspired hope and fueled my quest for reinvention in the next stage in my life. Five books that I found most helpful were:

1). How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement wisdom that you won’t get through your financial advisor. Ernie J. Zelinski (2017).

2). Life Reimagined: The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife. Barbara Bradley Hagerty. (2016).

3). Writing through Transitions: A guide for transforming life changes. Leia Francisco (2015)

4). Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping your identity, relationships, and purpose. Nancy Schlossberg. (2009).

5). Transitions: Making sense of life’s changes. William Bridges. (1980).

Making any life altering decision is never an easy process and learning how to navigate the path to retirement has been a series of trial and errors. Creating connections post retirement has helped ease me into this amazing next chapter of life. I am continuing to seek out the experiences of others which provides new ideas, strategies, and further exploration in this journey. What types of supports and resources have you found most helpful in making any type of life change?

Elusive Introductions

What changes take place when you need to introduce yourself to new people after you have begun the transition into retirement? Last month, I met a woman who arrived at a course I was instructing, who seemed to be evasive when it came time to introductions. I wondered why she had come to the course and if I would learn more about her over the next two days.

We connected for a brief but illuminating moment at coffee time. I learned that she had retired from a long and illustrious career just seven months ago. She also revealed the struggle she was experiencing in searching for the next steps of her path. What resonated for me, was the tangible and felt sense of both anxiety and anticipation in what might come next. I was startled by my own recognition of the mixed emotions she described and the fear I have had that no one else will understand this aspect of the experience.

Resting on the laurels of a stellar and brilliant career that may have spanned anywhere between thirty and forty years matters not to anyone but you once it is finished. I have noticed some people tune right out as soon as you utter the word, “retired”, and others launch into a diatribe about why they could not even think about leaving the work world at this time. Some people are curious, though, and express genuine interest in what you might do with the time during your day. Conversations either end at this point or move to safer topics. This often leaves me with a vague feeling that unless I can define for myself a role that clearly projects future contributions, I am somehow less than I used to be.

Ironically, the anchor of my past career seemed, at times, more like an albatross while I was working and while I knew this transition to retirement would bring some identity challenges, I have yet to figure them out. I find myself paying much closer attention when someone who has retired also introduces themselves in any social setting. I realize that I unconsciously rely on learning about someone’s professional or vocational role when I meet someone. My search for better strategies for social introductions continues.