My pivot to the future started about two years ago when I received the annual statement of benefits from Social Security for Bate’s benefits.
As his widow, I could opt to draw on survivor’s benefits or my own when I retired.
I looked at the numbers, then looked again.
My heart started beating a little faster.
I could do this. I could retire at 62 and pursue a writing career like I’d always wanted.
I hatched the plan, met with my financial advisor and my HR benefits coordinator at James Madison University.
They verified that I was not dreaming, that I could retire early.
And so began my long good-bye with full time work.
It was fine at first. I was still the director of the Adult Degree Program, and, more importantly, I still felt like the director.
I advised students.
I taught classes.
I planned programs.
I approved admissions applications.
I planned the program’s 40th anniversary picnic.
When the picnic came and went this past spring, my retirement date loomed less than six months away.
I was still the director, but I didn’t quite feel like it any more.
I commented on this to my supervisor.
“I have just the thing for you,” she replied, and plucked a book off the shelf.
Turns out she had read “Revitalizing Retirement: Reshaping Your Identity, Relationships, and Purpose” by Nancy K. Schlossberg for research for her doctoral thesis.
The book helped a lot – and I highly recommend it to anyone who is going through a life transition.
While it deals primarily with the transition from working to retirement, I saw many similarities with other life changes I’d experienced in the past few years – from living in Massachusetts to living in Virginia, from being a wife to being a widow.
I read the book in three days. Actually, it was more like I devoured it. I probably would have finished sooner, but I was taking notes!
I realized I wasn’t alone in my feelings of ambiguity, loss of stature as a working woman, and worries about the future as I read the stories of retirees whom Schlossberg interviewed for her research.
I also came to understand that I was a bit ahead of the game, as I’d put a tentative plan in place for how I’d fill my days.
I signed up for Suzanne Lieurance’s Quick Start Coaching Program to get my writing c
I enrolled in a needle felting class through JMU’s Lifelong Learning Institute, to do something fun and to keep me connected with people.
I set up an ambitious plan to clean out closets and re-organize the office.
I felt good again about my decision.
That is not to say those last couple of weeks weren’t tough, because they were.
I spent a lot of time teary-eyed as I cleaned out files and packed up my office.
I dreaded saying good-bye to my co-workers who had become my friends.
And one day before I left, I prayed like crazy to not cry in front of the Provost at the faculty recognition luncheon, where I was recognized for 15 years of service.
I made it through those last few days and am now one month into retirement.
It is fabulous. It feels surreal every time I think, “I don’t have to go anywhere today.”
I am writing daily.
I am sad that my needle felting class wrapped up last week, but I think I have found a new hobby.
And, my office is cleaned out and now an office again.
I can honestly, highly recommend retirement!
Of course, these past few weeks have not been without challenges.
The cat still wakes me up at 5 am for breakfast, no matter how often I tell her we can sleep in.
Thanks for spending time with me on the sunny side of life.