Letting Go in Retirement: Endings and Beginnings

If you’ve been partnered for a long time, the heartache and confusion of breaking up may be difficult to recall. But it’s there – deep in the recesses of your memory. Retiring from a long career can evoke much of the same angst. We struggle with our mixed emotions and sense of loss while also wondering if there is something wrong with us. All, while the still working-waiting for retirement folks can’t fathom why we aren’t giddy with joy and relief that we’ve crossed the finish line and landed in that coveted place: RETIREMENT.

But for many of us, it’s not that simple. For several decades, my work was a huge part of my identity. Even as newer technology posed a challenge, and younger folks stepped in when my same-age colleagues retired, I still felt deeply satisfied with my work and my contributions. It’s been a few months now since the paperwork was completed, officially sealing the fact that I am indeed retired. In the space of those few months, I’ve paid close attention to my experience and learned a few key lessons about endings and beginnings that have helped me in this transition:

Retirement is both a way of life and a state of mind

While the paperwork is official and final, the habits and flow developed over a lifetime of work tend to linger. It’s taken the better part of three months to remember that I don’t need to check my email immediately after waking up. There are no Zoom calls to attend, no learning strategies to develop, or stories to write. Every day I get better at remembering and embracing new and fulfilling ways to use my well-earned time.

Make one or two lifestyle changes to mark your transition

I did two things: welcomed a rescue puppy into our life, and got my nose pierced. Both have brought me delight. “Paris,” our mixed mini poodle, keeps me moving with her energy and amused with her endless and indiscriminate curiosity. The nose piercing has garnered mixed reactions – I am not surprised. I have been planning it for at least thirty years and chosen it to mark this transition. A diamond, no less!

 It takes time to adjust to a new sense of self

This new “way of life and state of mind” is foreign to me, but I am adapting. I am reminded of how I have always enjoyed my own company and relished my independence. My little Paris quickly learned that while Mommy may go out for a few hours every day, she always returns.

It’s important to acknowledge and manage your triggers

I have only one email address, so I still get work emails that are accidentally sent to me. I also receive marketing emails from companies in my former industry. In the beginning, I was sucked right into reading all of them; it was an autopilot response triggered by my sincere interest in my field. Over time I learned to immediately delete the accidental work emails – no peeking out of curiosity. I also began to unsubscribe to those marketing emails. The last, and boldest step has been to delete and discard the electronic and physical files related to my former work. Just watching the space clear reinforces that I am indeed retired.

Be mindful of making radical changes too quickly

Go easy. Retirement is a time for renewing your sense of self, for exploration, and for discovery.

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