Don’t Judge Retirement By Its Cover

June 15, 2015   |   NO COMMENTS

Retirement, Day One. Never having retired before, I didn’t know what to expect or how to judge retirement. Perhaps a feeling of being on vacation. Maybe even a bit of playing hooky thrown in. At any rate, I woke at my usual time…and felt like a brick hit me. Hard. I had no job.

Mimi Morris retired in January after a 40 year career as a librarian and library administrator.  Married, with 2 grown daughters, 2 dogs and 3 cats. A Jimmy Buffett Parrothead, Star Trek fanatic, and collects wines to share with family and friends, Mimi was not prepared for what was ahead of her and her retirement.

While retirement had always been somewhere on the horizon, the reality was hard to accept.  How does someone whose identity is so tied to a profession learn to explore new directions?

No job. After 40 years of working without a gap (not counting two happy maternity leaves of 12 and 7 weeks duration). After 40 years growing from a young and nervous reference librarian to a confident branch manager to an executive level administrator overseeing 200 employees in 21 locations. Nonetheless, was now unemployed.

“That first day, I huddled in the corner of the couch, in my pajamas, desperately checking email to see if anybody needed me. Was this normal? Was this depression? I’m a Type A, overachieving ex-flower child. I have to be accomplishing SOMETHING. I assured the family that I was fine. But I wasn’t, and I’m not,” said Mimi.

The rest of that first week passed in an unhappy blur. How could I respond to all the messages, gifts and heartfelt congratulations when I felt like such a failure? I had clearly made a terrible mistake. I wanted to go back to work.

At the end of that first week, I took myself in hand. I assured myself and everybody else that I was just fine. I was retaking the reins of my life and looking forward to the next big adventure. I was so wrong. I did have days that were good. “Ha! Look at me all in control!”  But I also had days where I crashed back onto the couch, checking email and crying. I was looking for validation that my life still had value.

That was eight weeks ago. Now, some days are pretty good. On other days, I realize I’m grieving for a life left behind. I grieve for that effortless feeling of confidence and leadership. I grieve for not “making a difference“–an important value for an aging hippie. I worry about money. I worry about keeping mentally sharp. I have time to worry, and sometimes the days seem too long.

Have I learned any lessons yet?

Yes! First of all, I’m still me with all the knowledge and skills and motivation I had two months ago. I simply haven’t learned to channel it all yet. I’ve learned that retirement must be a journey, not just an event.

Join me as I find my way!

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