I admit that I may be a little subversive. I refuse to use the word “retirement.”
Even though I stopped working full-time five years ago for the public relations firm where I had been an executive for twenty years, I never said I retired. I think of the change as just that, a change: a change in direction, a change in attitude, a change of chapters in my life. Hopefully that change is voluntary, not one where you have no control. But for those of us who decided that it might be time to stop the daily 9 to 5 (or in my case more like 9 to whenever the client was finished) we need to plan for that change. The last year or so that I was working, I had the opportunity to downsize the number of days I came into the office. Sometimes that meant crowding the work of five days into four or three, but it also allowed me to do the project that I was passionate about: writing a novel.
Here’s my advice: don’t be afraid to make that change. Think about it before you actually stop working. It is a transition, one that even stay-at-home moms will have to consider when their children leave the nest. Consider what to do with your time, how to feel productive, and what kind of contribution you might want to make to your community now that your schedule is more flexible. Not being chained to a desk allowed me to not only write when inspiration struck, but it gave me the opportunity to do the kind of volunteering that had been more difficult on a publicist’s schedule.
The key is: DON’T FEEL GUILTY.
Give yourself a little time to adjust. At first, you might enjoy just sitting and gazing out of a window for some daydreaming time or finally being able to join that weekly lunch with friends. Perhaps you want the chance to catch up on a marathon viewing of the TV series that you taped or got from Netflix without feeling guilty. You’re entitled to fritter away some time with no real goals in mind.
Eventually you’re going to want to spend some productive time doing something that gives you real satisfaction. It might be gardening, taking cooking classes, going back to school, learning a foreign language, or as I did, mentoring elementary school children in reading. There are a myriad of organizations just hoping for your involvement, such as our own National Council of Jewish Women, which would give you many ways to learn and volunteer. I was able to indulge my interest in politics and become an advocate for women and children victims of the conflicts in Sudan and the Congo. All of that plus having the chance to write two novels has been a cherished highlight.
You just have to do a little investigating to find what makes you happy and fulfilled. It might take several tries before you find the right combination. So forget about calling it retirement; make a plan before you start your changes; take it slowly, enjoy the free time; explore the possibilities; and don’t forget about the joys of volunteering.
Life continues to be an adventure. Take a chance and enjoy the new journey.
Beverly Magid is a PR Executive turned novelist who recently authored “Sown in Tears,” the story of a young Jewish woman and her family after an attack on their village in Russia's Pale of the Settlement in 1905. Visit www.beverlymagid.com for more information or to contact Beverly.