Earlier I said I would describe my experience of the transition to retirement. So far I have steered clear of that for a couple of reasons. The first is that I have been busy transitioning. The second is that I haven’t felt comfortable sharing the more intensely personal stuff, so I have stuck more to safer pieces in my blog on philosophising and on travel.
Some things lend themselves to publication and some do not.
After about four months away from the job the picture is clearing. There are some trends that maybe I can share, so this is the first instalment:
I have heard from a few people that there is commonly a time of grieving after retirement, when a real sense of loss is experienced. I have not felt that. Letting go never really was a problem, although I have missed the workplace, many of the people there, and dare I say, the familiar routines. Missed it? Yes. Grief? No.
There is a short story I read recently by Arno Surminski, in German and not as yet translated into English, that begins at the retirement lunch for an executive officer of a respected unspecified company. The man enjoys the lunch and the fussing of his colleagues and subordinates and his feet don’t touch the ground until he finds himself alone inside his apartment surrounded by his retirement gifts, his furniture, and the memories of a lifetime of devoted service during which his opinion and advice was constantly sought by others.
As he looked forward to his retirement he imagined that it would bring a type of release for him; a type of freedom. The reality he experiences now is cruelly different. He quickly discovers that his life has changed and not for the better. He expects he will be contacted by his old colleagues when they discover that they need his help and advice, but this does not happen. After a few days he starts to sit by his telephone. He does not go out because they might call and he doesn’t want to miss them. Days turn into weeks and then months. He invents reasons to phone his old workplace and he finds at first a subtle and then an increasingly pronounced shift in the attitude of his former work mates. He cannot help but notice that he carries no authority there any more. Politeness changes to barely disguised irritation at the interruptions his calls bring. No, such and such is not in. He is at a meeting, and so on.
As the tale progresses the man unravels. His sense of value and his identity were woven into his role in the company and now that he is so obviously no longer needed he diminishes before the reader’s eyes. I cannot remember but I think the story ends with his suicide. A profoundly sad story, but one, I suspect that describes accurately the emotional response of some to retirement from full time work.
My experience has been very different. A few quick observations will serve to illustrate:
I have now pretty much destressed and that is a wonderful thing. I love time by myself – not lonely at all.
I am enjoying classroom teaching again. I am grateful that I seem still to possess the knack of taming and engaging young people. I have noticed that I can be a bit cranky with some of them though. Maybe that comes with age? Part time teaching is about all I want at the moment as it takes a fair bit of energy out of a semi ‘retiree’ like myself.
I am also starting to make serious attempts to improve my general health and fitness. Walks, short and long are a real joy. Watching what I eat and drink is not nearly so much fun, but sadly I do need to do something about my abdominal girth.
I enjoy housework and handyman stuff. My wife also enjoys it when she arrives home to a cooked meal every night.
I am very comfortable with just being me – not being in a high pressure role with many expectations. Photography (just starting to get serious with it), painting (acrylic landscapes), walking, blogging, reading German (can’t find anybody to speak it with) all keep me busy when I want to be.
Hope you found all that informative and not too self indulgent. All in the spirit of detached research into the retirement experience. Until next time . . .
God bless you.