Six months after retirement I’m starting to think about my next life. I am already doing many of the things I wanted to do — writing, seeing friends, and teaching English as a Second Language as a volunteer — yet still feel like I’m in a transition period. I’ve not completely arrived at the next stage in my life. One reason is that I’m still attached to my earlier work. “Attachment” in any English dictionary means affection or fondness for something or someone, or physically connecting two things together. But there is another sense of attachment, which is clinging — creating a kind of Krazy Glue bond –which is a source of unhappiness or dissatisfaction. That’s the sense of attachment I’m talking about here.
When I announced my retirement plans, I was still fully involved and committed to my job; so, I promised to return as a retiree to help. “This isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of me, ” I said. “I’ll help with that project.” “You won’t be alone; I’ll be there for you.” Six months later I realize my mistake.
I recently read an article about why people in the field of law are reluctant to retire, but believe the reasons would apply to any profession and also explain why people continue to cling to their jobs after retirement. These include 1) wanting to hold on to the sense of purpose and personal identity provided by the job, 2) fearing loss of prestige, and 3) the wish to maintain control. When I read number three, I thought, Bingo! Although my identity and sense of purpose were very much connected to my job, I know I can find that same joy through writing and volunteer work. And I believe I will eventually find new ways to gain prestige. But I’m still eager to find out what’s going on in my former workplace, learn who’s doing what to whom, and what changes are coming, all things I can’t control. For a certified control freak this causes an inevitable and highly undesirable state of tension. Knowing this, however, does not lead me to make an immediate clean break. When I read the synonyms for detach — “divorce,” “alienate oneself with,” “disconnect” — I know I must stay connected awhile longer.
I was happy to have demonstrated a small sign of progress, when I recently said no to someone who asked me to be an advisor to a parent group I used to facilitate. And I accept that it takes a long time for some adhesives to lose their sticking power, but even Krazy Glue can be removed.
The question is not whether one should stay connected to a former job but whether what one hoped to accomplish in the former job — how one hoped to “make a difference” — has been accomplished to our complete satisfaction. If not then one needs to find other means of continuing; if so, then it is time to put those concerns behind us and move on to something entirely new.
For me, doing more of the same clearly was not going to accomplish what I wanted to so it was necessary to seek new outlets. The problem I had for several years is that I kept working myself into positions which had similar responsibilities. That’s the trap that has to be avoided.
It took awhile for me to stop saying “we” when talking with former colleagues about “our” workplace. Though I had switched my volunteer efforts to a new organization, I think it was still a big part of my identity. I was also working solo, part-time in the same profession for another 7 yrs.
It was harder for me to find a 30-hour-work-week of productive effort to replace my old job. I piled hours of energy into my new volunteer work and asked for more.
I had retired at 58 from my full-time job to do more creative things. It took awhile for me to “balance” my volunteer work with absorbing creative projects plus time for exercise and house projects while living a slower paced life. Ten years later, I am so happy that I did retire early and have time to savor whatever I’m doing.