In this, the third column in a series of five, we continue considering how to prepare for retirement. This series is based on the book Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course and takes a look at how things might be as you begin the retirement journey. In the previous two issues we discussed the period from that lovely time when you feel you’re on holiday and experiencing Fair Winds and Clear Skies, then as the journey continues, to a time of niggling questions and vague discontent that is Stormy Weather. In this article we will look at the need to find, during the storm, a Safe Harbour, a place of contemplation and consideration.
When things get a bit turbulent it’s good to retreat to a place where you can take stock of the situation. In retirement, after the halcyon early days of the holiday feeling, often doubts and concerns come flickering into your mind. Perhaps you should not have retired so soon, you miss your colleagues, you miss the structure your work days gave your life. Or, maybe you are fed up with golf, reading, painting or whatever passion it is you threw yourself into wholeheartedly when you finished working. Or, you might feel nothing at all, and be a bit rudderless and at a loss as to where your life is going, and who you are in your own life as it now presents itself. So, this is the time to head for a safe harbour and give yourself some time to think about it all.
This is easier said than done, because it raises the question: what should you think about and why? There’s no point in hashing over the same old worries and nagging doubts, or even letting light on to some perceptions you have of yourself without hoping to come up with some solutions. Yet, those cheery queries from friends “what are you doing?” are getting harder to answer with a response that satisfies you. And, besides, where do you find a safe harbour when life is going on all around you?
The answer, take a break in whatever way works for you. It might be going to visit a friend who lives out of town, or it might be just telling your querying friends and family “I’m taking the summer off and not making any decisions,” or it might be leaving it all behind to take a short-term contract or to volunteer overseas. In whatever way you decide to take your break and find your safe harbour, what you will need is time to think about yourself. This is a time to reconnect with yourself as a child, or young adult—what made you tick? Consider what made life interesting, exciting and satisfying at different points throughout your life. This is a solo journey of contemplation, but it is also a time to discover the self that others know, or have known in the past.
Think of the things you’ve always wanted to do, and decide what is the essence of a specific idea that made it appealing to you. This is an exciting time. A time of discovering you—who you were, who you thought you were and who you really are now. Over the years, as an educator, you’ve honed a set of skills that you used whenever you needed to solve a problem; what better time to put them to use than now in your safe harbour?
Questions and Ponderings
1. What did you love to do when you were 8, 9 or 10 years old?
2. What was it about those things that appealed to you?
3. What would your best friend in elementary school and/or high school say about you?
4. What kind of person do you consider yourself to be?
5. If a stranger met you now, how would they describe you?
6. What is really stopping you from doing what you want to do?
Aids to Navigation
1. Connect with your dreams and ideas from yesteryear for ideas for your tomorrow.
2. Review and clarify your values, desires and hopes.
3. Use methods that suit you—journal, mental notes, lists, old photos—to connect with yourself.
4. Think of how you can become fully engaged in life in a way that is meaningful to you and meets your values and criteria for success.
5. Take a compassionate, yet honest, look at yourself.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Carol Baird-Krul and Enise Olding
Carol and Enise are the creators of a series of pre-retirement and post-retirement planning workshops: Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course©, Recently Retired: Charting a New Course© and Ideas … Enhanced and Advanced©, and authors of Transition to Retirement: The Uncharted Course.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2011 issue.