I have officially retired. After paying into the social security fund for forty-seven years, along with all those matching contributions by employers, I received my first social security check on April 21, 2010. I had planned my retirement, but I was not prepared. Let me explain.
Over a year ago, I decided to take early retirement after my 62nd birthday. For me it made economic sense to start collecting my social security early and also pick up the pieces left of my other recession-invaded retirement plans while there were still monies left. Joining my husband in the retirement that he began four years ago, we will live comfortably – but with no extravagances. It all seemed to make sense. Then last month, I started to, well, worry. No, not about retiring and limited income – which would be a reasonable concern. What I worried about was how to handle the concept of retirement.
The act of retirement has always been foreign to me. I know other people who have retired and are throughly enjoying their time. But me? I have been working since I can remember – starting with chores on my parents’ truck farm when I was seven years old. By the time I was in high school, I was managing my folks’ small grocery store. When I was in college, I managed their motel during summer breaks. I just always worked.
I had an excellent role-model. My mother was a career women. All my school friends’ mothers were stay-at-home-bake-cookies-every-day type of moms. My mother, on the other hand, was the accountant for my folk’s businesses. My dad bragged that they were the perfect team: he was the brawn of the business and mom was the brains. (Actually, they were both very bright, hard working people.) Still she managed to do all the important mom things too: served as home-room mother at my grade school; attended all my plays, concerts and other events; sewed many of my clothes; and was there whenever I needed to talk. My father, on the other hand, taught me how to cook hearty German meals, plant and rotate crops, and supervise and motivate employees. They both gave me quality time and support.
I never considered not working outside the home. I knew I would be a career woman – always. My first husband of seven years (note: first husband) said it was okay that I work, as long as I was home in time to prepare the 6:00 p.m. dinner. Honestly, that’s what he said to me. Six months later we divorced and he found someone to cook meals served every day at 6:00 p.m. Three years later I found a husband who gladly shares household and cooking duties. We are both better people for the change.
All these years, I have enjoyed every moment of my career. It’s an integral part of me. Over the years, I have been employed by large corporations, not-for-profit entities, and small businesses. For each position I held, I enjoyed getting up in the morning and facing a new challenge. Even during last year, when I started my “semi-retired” phase, I was still moving at warp speed. Perhaps a little too frenzied, though. Maybe it was because I felt it soon was going to end.
Last fall I started to look for ways to ease into retirement. Made a list – I make lots of lists – and decided that I wanted to continue two activities that I most enjoy: writing and photography. Signed up with Associated Content last November. As a contributor with AC, I have been able to foster those plans, sharpening my skills as I go along. I also began to ramp up other activities that I enjoy: scale modeling, pool playing, sewing, socializing. Then about a month ago I froze: like a deer caught in head lights.
Panic! What do I do now? How do I “retire?” Will I still have identity and value? These were real issues for me. I began to lose sleep. I worried daily about anything and everything. My husband worked for years at a pulp and paper mill, and he would talk about people who worked there all their lives. When they retired, they would stand on the corner, just watching the shift changes. They didn’t know what else to do with their lives. Was I going to be like that? At what corner would I be standing?
But this week my official retirement day came…and went….and I’m not standing around anywhere. I’ve been too busy. This week I have worked on several articles, taken lots of photographs, attended two club meetings, went to a team pool match, completed volunteer work at the local community center – and enjoyed preparing dinner and serving it before 6:00 p.m.
My retirement and I are going to get along just fine. It’s just another stage in my life, one that I suddenly look forward to. I am not defined by my career, but by my accumulated life-long actions – retirement and all.