Greetings From Retirement!
By Satia Orange
When I announced my retirement in September 2009, my friends and colleagues assured me that after a few months of rest, I would be driven to fill my time. “The sleeping late will get old fast,” said one friend. “You’ll be so bored with nothing to do.” Others told me that “after the first year, you’ll be hungry for volunteer opportunities, to pass the time,” and that I’d embrace retirement as a time to travel the world and tackle all the things I’d been putting off for years.
Well, it been two and one-half years, and I’m still waiting to settle into that productive retirement described by my friends and colleagues. It has not happened for me yet, and I hope it never appears.
Of course, several weeks prior I had completed the necessary retirement account forms and post-employment insurance. My next venture was updating contact information on accounts I had forgotten I had, cancelling credit cards, magazine subscriptions, etc. I’ve since learned that those same account holders try their best to keep you on their rolls, and continue to contact you, offering deals often hard to pass up….but I do.
On the first day, after I turned in my keys in HR, I embarked on a five-day road trip around Lake Michigan, something I’d been planning to do for years. From Chicago to Green Bay, to Manitowoc, to Michigan City, I stayed within sight of the Lake. I exhaled often during that beautiful drive, freeing stress and any trepidation about the life that lay before me. By the time I returned home I had spent $2000 on repairs on my 10 year old car. Welcome to retirement! After being reminded by my daughter, an automobile manufacture employee, that the newly-purchased parts were attached to ten-year-old parts, just waiting to break down, I sold the car.
So what else have I been doing?
- I accept my son’s invitation for a trip to California, from November to January, where I am on ‘pee and poop patrol’ with my two grand-dogs; attend events frequented by thirty-forty years olds (parties, openings, lectures, performances); and accept frequent brunch, lunch and dinner invitations, where “Hey, Mama Orange” or “Hi Michael’s mom” are the greetings. I am nurtured with hugs and kisses and hand-holding by folks, young and older, whose names I still struggle to remember, but look forward to seeing each year.
- I exchange texts and advice with my daughter in Michigan. She and I play “Words with Friends” on my phone, in which she routinely beats me with 108-point words.
- I keynote at library events about professional work practices and career visions that I hope inspire new generations of library outreach staff.
- I joined ALA as a retiree, and signed onto a few library discussion lists, where my input seems to still be welcomed, because you know I still have opinions, popular or otherwise. (We’ll see as time goes on.)
- I lunch, and sometimes “happy hour” with former ALA staff colleagues and friends. Glad not to be working.
- I volunteer with a few Chicago non-profits with library focuses, including doing a summer reading project at my local library.
- I’ve increased my leadership energies at my church, which I consider stewardship, not volunteering.
- I continue hosting a growing group of close friends from over the years, who convene annually, usually during my birthday week in Chicago (this last year 23 came) for a weekend of site-seeing, shopping, theatre, and soul -sharing.
- I’m entirely too active on Facebook, thoroughly enjoying and intrigued by life thoughts, activities and photos of friends from my childhood, my former colleagues from many careers, current friends, and especially my children and their friends. I still have to catch up with LinkedIn… when I have time.
- Oh yes, and I am slowly re-organizing my condo, slowly discarding, after a Style Network intervention by my daughter.
I have not gotten that part-time job, written that blog or book, followed through on retirement consulting, or read every new book out, although I did promote and lead a discussion on The Shack and The Help, and I promoted and attended the premiere of Red Tails (the movie). More intensive projects will happen in time.
So what have I learned that might inspire readers suffering through this commentary? What advice can I offer to those getting older?
Don’t be a workaholic
I didn’t know I was a workaholic until I retired. Retirement, for me, means stopping employment. I never developed an avocation, although I have collected tools for jewelry-making. I haven’t written a first novel, collected coins, stamps, or salt and pepper shakers. I have not tried to find work post-retirement (which I really should consider).
Pay attention to your financial and post-retirement portfolios
I did not, but decided to retire anyway, because I didn’t want to be too old and unhealthy to enjoy life. I am so glad I made that decision, though I wish I had done my homework and tightened my financial status.
Actively explore retirement resources
Of course, you should have been a member of AARP since you were 50 (or they think so). Though AARP seems to be harassing you, their publications feature useful tips and commentaries, government opportunities and alerts (especially on Medicare), so just routinely peruse their mailings and check out what seems important to you and discard the rest. Talk with those retired friends whose lifestyles are similar to your vision for retirement. And of course, check out the library’s collection of resources (did I say that?).
Be smart with your spending
Post-employment, you will need to purchase fewer clothes, shoes, etc. Your wardrobe will probably be more relaxed, and others would appreciate those career items.
Be relationship smart
Refine and stay connected with those friends and family who really matter to you, and from whom that dedication is returned (important). I retained great relationships over sixty-plus years, many who reached out to me. Also, welcome new relationships. Lots of folks are open to meeting new friends in retirement, and there’s much to learn and share with them. You’d be surprised at how much your library expertise can still help so many.
Follow sensible health practices
Start now to make healthy decisions about how you plan to live as a healthy retiree. Consider issues of food choices, weight, mobility and especially intellectual stimulation. I retired during a failing economy, , and I’m so glad I discussed retirement health coverage and personal care with my HR and my doctor. I just wish I had acted on their advice earlier.
Keep your lifestyle in check
If you want to stay active in librarianship or follow another career direction, develop resources and networks toward that end. Don’t compare what you want to do with your life with what you see others doing. Ignore naysayers who try to ruin your joy of living by criticizing your new life choices. They’re not walking in your new shoes.
Learn to say ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ after careful consideration. Do what makes you happy, and is also smart for you. You owe yourself the opportunity to decline opportunities that threaten your stable lifestyle, and to welcome new possibilities that you never thought you’d do. (Hanging with 30-year-olds taught me that). Re-connecting with old friends as far back as elementary school is inspiring and supportive on a new level.
Consider becoming more active in your church, sorority, fraternity or community action council. Or explore that nagging venture on your back burner, traveling or mission work overseas or playing the guitar or line-dancing. Or use your expertise to start a small business or non-profit. You now have the time.
Should I be doing more in retirement? Most certainly, and I will do more as time goes on. But right now, I am taking care of myself, growing healthier, stronger, and much more joyful, one day at a time.
The most important thing for you to know, whatever your age, is to take your time to live life to the fullest, now and later, professionally and personally, day by day. I’ve done lot in my life, accomplished much and failed some too. But that’s life, and today I’m livin’ it and lovin’ it. Right now!
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