I used to have a lot of things to do, which is why retirement has been a bit difficult for me
Like most people, I’ve spent my life running from one responsibility to another. I was a teacher for 20 years, this following about 15 as a reporter in both television and print. All along the way, I was an amateur sports official, an avocation I practiced for four decades. And I’m a foster mom and an author. On top of all that, I worked out most of my life, so the gym and pool were a second home.
Today, I’m retired from my everyday job in the classroom. I no longer traverse football fields blowing whistles, and my workout regimen is a fraction of it once was. Adding to the strangeness is the fact that recently I became an empty-nester as the kids have all spread their wings and flown.
One fabulous aspect to all of this is that the alarm clock that used to brutalize me every morning is no longer an instrument of torture. I looked forward to this time in my life when I could sleep in and do anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. But it turns out retirement can be tricky.
According to the American Psychological Association article “Retiring minds want to know” by Jamie Chamberlin, “Too few people consider the psychological adjustments that accompany this life stage, which can include coping with the loss of your career identity, replacing support networks you had through work, spending more time than ever before with your spouse and finding new and engaging ways to stay active.”
That part about losing your career identity is one I didn’t consider. Like many people, I believed my job was not just what I did, it defined who I was. Leaving the classroom and officiating fields behind left a big hole in my world. Which, considering my personality, is apparently not that strange.
“(P)eople with certain personality characteristics—such as being competitive and assertive—had more difficulty adjusting to retirement…compared with more mild-mannered people coming from low-pressure jobs,” said Chamberlin. “The very attributes that make people successful in their work life often work against them in retirement.”
“I worry that you won’t have enough to do,” my sweetie pie often says to me. “You can’t just do nothing. You always have to have a project. Why can’t you just relax?”
Perhaps because to me a successful day is one in which I accomplish lots of things: took care of the animals, prepared healthy meals, taught school, read the newspaper, answered e-mails, wrote a book chapter, officiated a ballgame, read a few pages of a novel before nodding off. Something like that. And I’d give myself extra credit if some unexpected responsibility crashed into my schedule and I got that done too.
But today the activities in which I used to participate have been pared back dramatically. I’m still writing books and doing all the promotional activities that come with that kind of work. (This blog, for example.) But I often find myself standing in a room wondering what I might do next.
So, how can we be happy in retirement? First, understand that the process takes time. We’ve been working our entire lives. Stopping cold-turkey can give us whiplash. One way to cope might be part-time work, especially in a job that gives us pleasure. Another is to maintain a solid social circle, because in-person face time with others is good for our mental health. Volunteering is also an excellent way to fill all that free time we now have, because it provides both social interaction and psychological well-being. Studies show helping others can offset feelings of anxiety, stress, and anger, which in turn improves cardiovascular health.
Just remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all road to a happy retirement. The trick is to find what works for us individually.
I don’t have the answer yet, but I’m working on it.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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