CARETALK: Anticipating retirement

Q   I have been looking forward to retirement at the end of this year for so long. I have worked as a school teacher for many years and suddenly I feel lost and fearful. I don’t know who I will be or what I will do if I am not teaching. Can you suggest how to deal with my fears and forge into the unknown with positivity rather than fear?

A  So many of us define who we are by what we do, so when we are faced with a major transition, we tend to question our sense of identity. Hence it’s quite easy to feel lost and without a sense of purpose. I have met many people in circumstances similar to yours; initially they were feeling excited about the potential freedom retirement could bring, but also had mixed emotions relating to fear, a sense of grief and loss and uncertainty about ‘what’s next’?

Transitions such as retirement, having a baby, starting a first or new job all signal a new phase in life. But retirement is sometimes viewed as ‘the end’ of something. This is true in many respects but an ending can also bring about new beginnings and many − even exciting − possibilities.

Feeling good about retirement will require some reflection.

Instead of defining yourself by what you do, begin thinking about defining yourself by who you are and who you would like to be. Clearly, working as a teacher for so long indicates something about who you are, not just what you did. Did you enjoy sharing knowledge and teaching others? Are you someone who enjoys being around people, adults as well as young people? Did you enjoy the routine and sense of purpose? When you break down what it was that you enjoyed about teaching, it tells so much more than just the job you did. It gives you information about your values – what matters to you.

Now is the time to reflect on value domains. Once you have assessed the importance of each, write down a few words that reflect how you would like to be in each area. For example, as a parent, in the “Family” domain, I might write, “to be a present parent”, “to spend quality time with my children”, “to be more involved in their schooling”. Once you have noted some of the qualities that reflect who you would like to be, you can then think about the actions and behaviours that would demonstrate you are beginning to live by those values. Some domains you could begin thinking about may be:

  • Family
  • Leisure
  • Social relationships
  • Health (physical and mental)
  • Personal growth
  • Spirituality
  • Community and environment.

Also, assess and consider the positive opportunities retirement will bring, one in particular being time to dedicate to all aspects of your life. If you decide that you really value being able to help, support and teach others, you could create new meaning and routine in your life by considering volunteering. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy this new phase of your life and be kind to yourself. It really is all right to feel uneasy about the future; you don’t need to talk yourself out of your fears. But you do have the power to decide what actions you will take now, despite your fears. You can do this. 

 

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Tanya Russell Image
Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Counselling Team Leader and a registered psychologist.

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