I have planned my retirement on three separate occasions in the past 10 years, after my father passed away. I even used a retirement countdown clock, in plain view, while I was working as a licensed social worker with patients in my office. Each time as the clock was counting down to zero, I became more and more uncomfortable.
I spoke to myself: “Really, Neil?! You’re going to give up this integral part of your life/fulfillment/identity?” Each time I decided in the negative.
It was the long and winding road that got me into this profession. I had gone to Fordham Law School after college, but the Vietnam War ended that plan.
We law school and other graduate students were told, “Your country needs you overseas.” That was an unpleasant shock, and I left law school, but things have worked out very well in the long run.
I feel fortunate to have a “job” that allows me to connect with a great variety of young and older folks, and which allows me to assist them in navigating through the travails and curveballs of life. And I find that often I benefit and learn (about life and myself) at the same time that I am doing my best to help others.
I recently revisited my List of Things to Do in Retirement. Some I have been able to do, some I have not.
It’s a trade-off; I feel on the one hand that I am missing out on doing some of the things on my list — things I very much want to do — but on the other, stronger hand, I’m quite happy that I’m still working.
Whenever I think about pulling the trigger and doing the full retirement thing, my body and mind convulse, and I know that’s not the way I want to go.
About a year ago I decided to go with a suggestion that a relative made to me about 10 years ago: Take off the last week of each month, so that I can be “retired” for a quarter of the time. That compromise has worked out very well for me.
Also, I have very few set times when I see my patients. I set up a new schedule each week, taking into account my own priorities, such as when I want to take a day trip, be with friends, watch or go to a Rangers hockey game, play tennis, often on a daily basis. I have made it clear that when I die, I want this racket and a can of unopened tennis balls in the coffin with me, just in case I get a chance to play in the hereafter.
As we therapists often say to patients, “It’s a journey, a process, not a destination.”
I still have unfinished business that I’m not happy about, activities that I could do if I were fully retired, like finally including photographs in a biographical book about my father, which I completed about eight years ago; getting back to the gym on a consistent basis; play and improve my skills on the guitar; visit factories (I enjoy seeing how things are made); travel more.
I have written two other books, but that was made possible only when I took sabbaticals from my previous job as a bilingual school social worker with the Board of Education of the City of New York. One is a biography of my mother; the other is a recounting of my maternal grandparents’ experiences when they arrived at Ellis Island from Greece and Turkey, and how they made their way in a new country and culture.
However, I can feel in my body, more than in my mind, that I have the life more or less that I want, so that’s that for now. There have been upheavals and hurricanes in my life, just like I imagine most or all of us have had, but it sure is nice to have consistent peace of mind, balance, happiness and fulfillment
Continuing to work with people as a psychotherapist is an important part of the current multicolored jigsaw puzzle I find myself in.
READY OR NOT
Is the retirement clock ticking? Are you thisclose to calling it a career and spending more time waking up late, eating a leisurely breakfast, meeting friends for lunch, playing more golf, catching up with the grandkids?
Or is your job too enjoyable to leave? Retirement funds too low? Maybe the thought of not clocking in after years on the job is intimidating. Maybe work is where you have friends and a guaranteed social life.
Are you staying put or putting in your papers? If you’ve already retired, how’s it going? What are you doing to keep busy? Share your thoughts for possible publication. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Act 2 Editor, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747. Include your name, address, phone numbers and a picture, if available.