In the fall of 2001, I began a personal journey that I call “Surviving Unintended Retirement.”
Along with many people around the world, I know exactly what I was doing when I first learned that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. I had just left an internal meeting in the health insurance company where I worked at the time. I visited the small gift shop in my workplace, and heard the radio talking about this catastrophe. I rushed back to my office, and began obsessively checking CNN for updated stories on the unfolding events.
OK—how does anything to do with this event in the world’s history relate to my retiring. While there was no direct cause and effect, because of contiguous timing I link the attack on the World Trade Center with my unintended retirement. The next month, October, my boss called me into his office to review my annual performance evaluation. Having gone through this ritual many times, I expected little difficulty. He began by complimenting me on my work over that past year, indicating no problems. But, all that, he said, is moot as your job has been eliminated. To say I was stunned is to understate my reaction.
Thereby was launched my unintended retirement. At first, technically, I was unemployed, seeking future employment. But the truth was retirement was two years away in my personal planning anyway. So I call it unintended retirement. The suddenness of being launched into retirement meant I began retirement without all my plans in place.
The transition was not easy. Through that first year, I had to figure out how to survive unintended retirement. I have come up with several guidelines.
First, don’t rush. The boon of not having to go to work gave me time to do those myriad projects I had squirreled away in my mind, for some future time. The temptation of having so much personal time was to try to do everything the first week. I quickly realized that I needed to pace myself. I have recorded all the projects I want to do, and select one or two a week to work on.
Second, keep in touch. I decided to try to arrange one or two lunches a month with friends and former colleagues. What a treat to be able to go out to lunch, catch up on work gossip, and then when lunch is over, go back to my leisure as my friends go back to WORK!
Third, look to the future. My first ever full time job upon college graduation was teaching college. I love teaching, and had often wondered if I would ever get back to it. In November, two months after learning my job was being eliminated, I responded to an ad for adjunct professors at the local community college. I spruced up my resume, emphasizing my teaching background and educational connections, and presented it to the dean. Without any fanfare, he said, “Oh, yes, you’re qualified.” Then within several weeks, I got a call and my retirement career began.
I teach writing at HACC, anywhere from one to three courses any given semester. Now, my unintended retirement is becoming so busy that I constantly wonder—is it time to retire, again?