What makes a smooth transition to retirement? I personally didn’t have anything in mind. In the first week or two that I stopped going in to work every day, I had more naps than I’d care to admit. I’ve also read a lot, but too much of it has been internet news (or entertainment). Something that’s important to me is to spend my time doing things that are worthwhile. That’s why I’ve decided to spend more time volunteering at my children’s school and at the YMCA.
It seems that volunteering is a common theme among retired people. At the YMCA, I met a woman who explained that she’s currently transitioning into retirement. Without being rude, she is quite a bit older than me, probably nearing the normal retirement age. She worked for years as a psychologist, helping children (eg. with ADHD) adjust to their usual environments, such as school. She has decided that she wants a smooth transition to retirement. Her first step was to stop taking on new clients. Each client is a relatively short term project, measured in months, not years. This reduces her commitment (and income, I assume), without ending it all at once. It also gives her a modest amount of extra free time.
Most people, after working full time for the majority of their lives, crave a routine and a feeling that they are contributing to a cause larger than themselves. The woman I met has chosen to volunteer at the YMCA in order to be part of a group effort and to have a time commitment that builds into her routine. I’ve talked with other people who either worry what they would do with the spare time afforded by retirement. They seem to take literally the proverb “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”.
That may hold true for some people, but having the luxury of being able to choose where and how to spend my time gives me options that wouldn’t be available otherwise. My favourite things to spend my time on relate to my interest in public education. I regularly spend time in our school, volunteering in one or the other of my sons’ classes, or joining them on field trips. I also talk with other parents about their experiences with and expectations for our school. I have the luxury of being able to read news, scholarly articles and books related to the education issues that our school and our system are facing.
None of these activities were planned as a transition to help smooth me into retirement. But I think that a smooth transition is certainly worth the effort. I continue to try and sort my activities into a regular schedule that produces a routine. Fortunately, whenever I feel that I’m wasting my time, I can take my daughter (who’s not in school yet) and play with her. Nurturing my kids is time well spent.
Do you have plans to ease the transition from one stage of life to the next?