My Journey After Retirement
On retirement, I found myself staring into a huge void, as I had not given any serious thought to what I would or could do after the end of my twenty-five- years of teaching. Initially, this emptiness was filled by the undertaking of a doctorate.
However, shortly after its completion, feelings of loss, grief, and disorientation surfaced. A loving family and caring friends were no substitutes for the intellectual engagement I had shared with my colleagues and students. The loss of the energising buzz of being part of a familiar working group as well as being part of the drama of school-life continued to haunt me for many months: 2 years in fact. Life had lost its flavour. Gone were the defining structures of being at school by 8.30 am each morning and part of a staffroom where I belonged. My life defined by the bells of a 9-period day had ceased.
During my 'wanderings in the wilderness’ I attended various short courses searching for meaning and direction. It was during this time that I began to read about retirement to familiarise myself with what others had experienced. Soon, I wanted to actively engage with, seek out, and interview individuals who had retired, in order to capture their experiences. With time, patterns began to emerge in my sample. I wasn’t interested in writing a book—one that would potentially and indefinitely sit on a shelf.
What I wanted was to be able to combine my growing knowledge in this field and my extensive teaching experience: “looking back and giving forward” in order to compose something real, based in lived experience—something interactive and engaging. To compose a series of workshops for 'like-minded' individuals who could share experiences, find support and direction.
Over the course of the next 4 years I read widely and voraciously in the ever-growing body of literature, synthesising it into 6 strands. I became inspired by the ideas of revolutionary thinkers like Peter Laslett, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Catherine Bateson and Marc Freedman who themselves had experienced this juncture in life and envisaged that a new life-stage had dawned.
What I also found was a reflection and validation of my journey—the pain that is an integral part of any major life transition—feelings of grief associated with the loss of one’s primary working identity, the disorientation of not knowing who one is—being a Mrs Nobody—feeling stuck in a no-go zone full of fear and self-doubts; and most concerning of all, the question: will there be something next?
The more I spoke about my findings, the more I heard individuals say that they too had similar experiences. Hence Navigating Retirement was born: four two- hour workshops on key aspects of retirement for either individuals thinking/ planning to retire or for those having retired and finding their next stage challenging.
My research confirmed that I and other Baby Boomers are living through an unprecedented time of change—a new life stage—a Third Age, Third Stage, or Encore Years— without a roadmap. Retirement in its traditional sense (a withdrawal from) is obsolete.
It’s time to retire retirement! We need to shed what author Matt Miller calls the tyranny of “dead ideas—notions and practices from the past that have outlived their usefulness yet assert themselves still.” We have been given a precious gift: an extra thirty years of life. It is an opportunity for new pursuits, for learning and growth, for social engagement and becoming “trustees for the future.”
Weathering your transition, affirming the importance of ‘being alone in the desert,’ and charting fresh roadmaps is what I hope to share with you in Navigating Retirement. I invite you to journey with me.
BA (Hons); Dip Ed; M.Ed; and Ph.D, Coaching Certification