Monday, June 5, 2017

Thoughts On Retirement

After yesterday's eleven o'clock Mass, everybody was invited to the social hall to celebrate Father Len's retirement. He's been our pastor for eight and a half years, and having reached the age of 70 a few days prior, was eligible to hang it up, so to speak.  What a great party! Delicious appetizers, scrumptious cookies, and a delightful cake along with plenty of friendly conversation highlighted the affair.Many parishioners shared their personal stories of how Father Len had had a positive effect on their lives in one way or another during his time at St. Elizabeth Seton.  A memory table was set up in the back of the hall with photos depicting the good pastor's life from birth to present day. Countless comments about what a sweet baby he was, how cute a youngster, and how long he wore his hair as a teen swirled around from an adoring fan base. Father made himself available so that we could say our good-byes and wish him a well-deserved and peaceful retirement.

Since the party, I've been wondering about what people think of leaving the work force in general, and about my own retirement in 2000. When to retire is a huge decision, and one that needs to be carefully planned out before taking that leap into the unknown. Of course, one's financial situation should be of paramount concern. Without having saved enough money to provide the life style you're accustomed to, can have devastating consequences. When passing through the check-out line at Wal-Mart lately, I've noticed a number of seniors standing on their feet for hours in order to make ends meet. Social Security and pensions don't seem to cover a person's bills these days, let alone provide any extra cash for a few simple amenities. When casually talking to them, many of these folks lament the fact that they may never be able to quit working. My heart goes out to each and every one of them.

Besides the money aspect but just as important is the mental and emotional factors involved. Most people considering retirement have no idea what it is they will do afterwards. Without a plan, a good many find themselves floating on the sea of confusion and disillusionment. They don't have anything to fall back on, no second careers, no hobbies, no interests. They lose contact with their former coworkers and find themselves alone and lonely. Depression can quickly set in, robbing them of the energy to find any joy in what was promised to be their 'golden years'! How sad!

I retired the first of June, 2000, and although our finances were in order,  I must say it was a shock to my system! I've always been an early riser, so after reading the paper and drinking my coffee, I was faced with many hours of trying to come up with something meaningful to fill my day. I'd clean, cook, shop, and read. The problem was that I'd done all of those things before AND managed to work a 10-12 hour day! I enrolled into a real estate course, took exercise classes, and scoured the internet searching for an outlet that would fulfill my needs and spark my mind. For almost three years feeling lost and without true purpose, I became depressed.

Fortunately after one of my aerobics sessions, I bumped into an old friend and as we talked, she invited me to a musical performance she and her group, 'The Harmony Singers' were putting on in a few weeks. That one chance encounter became the pivotal point that changed everything for me regarding retirement. Not only was the group phenomenal, but many of the participants were around my age. Once again being in contact with folks that shared experiences much like my own provided me a social circle I desperately needed. As an extra bonus, the singing, dancing, and acting lifted my spirits and within the next year, I became a certified member.

From then on a positive momentum was born. I became a first-time grammy, adopted a sweet puppy that remains attached to my hip at all times, started a second career as a children's book author, and began volunteering in church and community events. My outlook on life is now one of anticipation and excitement. Although I didn't relish the first years of retirement, perhaps they were indeed necessary in order for me to move forward. I won't lie, I would have rather avoided them altogether, but if that is what it took to get me to the joys of today, then that dark period was certainly worth it.

Oftentimes when I find there aren't enough hours in a day to do everything I had planned, I wonder how I ever managed to hold down a job, too. Funny how things change dramatically and yet somehow still stay the same.

Good luck to Father Len and all the new retirees! My hope is that this new phase in your lives will bring joy and challenge every single day. However, if you have a plan unlike myself, you're probably way ahead of the game! I wish you peace, joy, and love!