Retirement in Stages

Retirement isn’t something that’s done in a day. One day you’re working, the next day you’re not and that’s all there is to it. I’d always said, quite defiantly: I’m not the retiring type; I’m going to work as long as I can. So, when I finally did it five years ago, the adjustment was rough. For me, it’s been a process and as I look back, I see that  it’s something I had to do in stages.

Adding to my angst was the fact I’d gotten divorced, moved and retired all in a short span of time. Even though I fully agree with the advice articles saying it isn’t good to make more than one change at a time, I did it anyway.But once moved, every day was like a slap in the face. I had nowhere I had to be. No one expecting me somewhere. No one needing anything from me. The pull to feel useful was strong. And I succumbed.

I’d been a volunteer board member of a small non-profit writing organization for several years. The organization had helped me build a strong writing community for myself and now I had the time to give back, get more involved. So, I volunteered to be the secretary of this organization that was in disarray.

My goal was to update the infrastructure. That included those tedious activities that are put off until   “we have the time.” I dove in and it felt good to have a to-do list once again. Then, on top of all that, the organization was experiencing change and needed a new president. With hardly any board members to draw from, I took the job and became both secretary and president for a three-year term.

I think I let the whole thing get the best of me. Before I knew it, I was busy everyday with various organization details. In addition to the usual duties, I received a stockpile of archival materials a member had stored in his garage. Fourteen boxes of decades old items that took over a year to organize and decide what to keep, what to shred or dispose of.  My penchant of stepping in to help out was tested to the max but my list of completed projects grew.

We now have a complete operations manual that includes current bylaws, policies and procedures, job descriptions and program guidelines. I’ve rebuilt the board of directors to full capacity. The important information from those fourteen boxes have been taken to the Wisconsin Historical Society for permanent storage. Our history is in good hands.

I’m proud that the organization is being left in better shape than when I started. So, as the three-year stint comes to an end, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I always knew I was most comfortable as a middle manager. I like having a project and reporting to someone. I’m definitely not boss material. So, I’ll never take on such a task again. If I’ve learned anything it’s to curb my impulse to help out.

Anyone who has volunteered knows what I’m talking about. There’s always more to do than there are people to get the job done. And while most are happy to make suggestions, point out what isn’t being done or offer other sage advice, there are so few willing to jump in to help.

This three-year commitment was a stage in my adjustment to retirement. It filled a gap, made me feel useful and now I’m ready to be completely retired. So, gone now are the days of waking up with my first thought being what volunteer duties need to get done today.

In these last five years, I’ve reconnected with old friends, found a book group, two writing groups and a theater group. Not to mention the out to lunch and movie occasions with various friends. The need to be useful has slipped away to be replaced by enjoyment of each day. The relief I’m feeling as the end-date approaches is a sign I’m doing the right thing.


doing the right thing.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Linda
    Aug 24, 2018 @ 17:56:11

    I knew you’d eventually catch on. It’s about time! Ha ha. Linda



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