I am a licensed psychologist who has not worked professionally for two and a half years. Officially, I am retired, although I still hold my license and insurance.
Retirement is both good and bad, depending on the day or hour. I chose my profession, in part, because I felt that I would have the freedom to set my own schedule, and I always expected that I would work part time as a psychologist long after I finished my agency years.
I felt lucky that I had entered a profession that I loved, that was meaningful, and that allowed me to impact people’s lives in a positive way.
What actually happened was that I became tired both emotionally and physically. It became more and more difficult to be totally present with my clients’ thoughts and feelings and to be effective in facilitating their progress.
Being ineffective as a psychologist was not something I could accept. I began to think about cutting back. First I shed my private practice because it was the farthest away and the longest day. Then I finally stopped working my three-day-a-week agency position.
I was happy to stop working. I had no desire to work except for the itch to be doing something “productive” and the fear of losing an essential part of my identity.
Before I retired, I imagined that I would write, play my flute again, and volunteer at a food pantry. I read. I knit. I have plenty of hobbies. That I would have trouble shifting gears did not really occur to me.
What actually happened was that I spent much of the first year and a half of my retirement unexpectedly caring for and supporting two young family members who suffered from cancer. I was grateful that I was not working and had the emotional wherewithal to do this, but in the end, I just wanted to sleep and watch movies.
After about 18 months, I began to think about all those activities I had wanted to do when I was no longer working. I did get a volunteer position, not in a food pantry, but at the home of President Theodore Roosevelt — Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, a national historic site where I interpret the past and help people enjoy themselves.
I went to the house 20 years ago and I never forgot it. I’m sort of a history buff and have read historical novels. When I saw they were opening the house after the renovation, I became a volunteer one day a week.
I have started to play my flute again, and I am thinking about what I would like to write. It’s a beginning. Sometimes, less frequently now than before, I feel I should do something psychological. But I am mindful, and ask myself why I feel that and whether it’s something I really want to.
Daily, I remind myself that retirement is a journey. I am still writing my life story, and I do not know whether I am moving toward a new career or different hobbies.
The ambiguity is not easy. When there were children and a job, there was never enough time. Now there is time.
Who knows, maybe I will find a good book at the library, maybe I will start a blog, and (something I never mention to my children) maybe there will be grandchildren.
READY OR NOT Is the retirement clock ticking? Are you this close 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.