Recently I heard a radio host, inquiring if a guest would retire soon, ask, “Do I see a hammock in your future?” That reminded me of Grace Coddington, who when stepping down as Creative Director at Vogue, said she was “definitely not retiring” because she didn’t want “to sit around.”
Really? Hammocks? Sitting around? That’s their vision of retirement?
I retired five years ago after 30 years of teaching high school. I loved my job… but teaching is stressful. The planning, prepping, researching, endless meetings, constant professional development, not to mention the hours and hours of marking papers, can expand to fill all the hours of your life. That’s if you do the job right.
So when I was eligible to retire, I thought long and hard about what to do. I still had tons of energy for the classroom, but I was finding I no longer had energy or enthusiasm for the bureaucracy or the endless and not always sensible change.
So… I made a sensible change for myself and retired, but I certainly did not plan to sit around. In or out of a hammock.
Sitting around is not my definition of retirement, nor does it define the lives of my retired friends.
According to a 2015 article in the Montreal Gazette, sitting around is exactly what most retired people do NOT do. Dorothea Bye, an expert on aging, says contemporary retirement takes many forms. She describes retirees fashioning all manner of combinations of work and non-work and says the idea of retiring to a rocking chair (or a hammock) is outdated.
“Retirement is not resignation, it’s regeneration.”
A few months before I retired, Hubby and I were sipping wine, waiting for supper to cook, and talking about my impending retirement. I was grieving the fact that my career, something so integral to my identity, was winding down. Who would I be when I wasn’t a teacher? I remember saying, “I can’t believe it’s the end.” And Hubby replied, “Why not look at it as a beginning, instead of an ending?”
And just like that, my perspective changed. That doesn’t mean my anxiety disappeared, or that tears were not shed when I walked away from the classroom, or that I didn’t struggle to find my path. It does mean I started looking ahead, not back.
And it’s the looking ahead that is key: Finding new ways to explore our passions, new ways to use those good skills we developed during a long and fulfilling work life.
My accountant friend is now an accomplished watercolor artist. My languages teacher friend volunteers at a refugee center. With her ability to speak English, French and Arabic, she’s their dream volunteer.
And me? Well Hubby and I are traveling, and after many years of teaching literature and writing, I am exploring the blogging world and finding an outlet for my creativity and crazy ideas… with a supportive audience, no bureaucracy, no marking of papers.
And no hammocks in sight.