After 30 years of working in administrative support at Winnipeg Public Library – mostly as a desktop publisher and marketing assistant – I am retiring at the end of June. Immediately upon deciding I felt a wave of sadness for having to say goodbye to my co-workers (who have been great to work alongside) and tasks like making posters or web pages that sing or taking photos for our newsletter that make others smile. I also felt relief like an untied balloon finally able to (slowly) lose its long-stored air. I could mentally begin to let go of work responsibilities which always tended to weigh on me. There was also a refreshing note of expectation as I began to anticipate new rhythms, including more time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. (Perhaps more reflective writing, cooking and gardening?)
But how do we retire with dignity and not a ton of regret? I’m not entirely sure. I haven’t navigated this transition before so I am by no means an expert. It’s likely a different challenge and experience for each individual, but I have noticed there are a lot of library resources right here that can help with the process. What a privilege it is to be part of a library that serves so many in so many meaningful ways!
There are self-help books that help you to think financially smarter about retirement or how to set goals and a bucket list for a more ‘fulfilling’ next life chapter. The ‘Parachute’ series is one such resource.
What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement by John E. Nelson
“Today’s economic realities have reset our expectations of what retirement is, yet there’s still the promise for what it can be: a life stage filled with more freedom and potential then ever…What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement offers both a holistic, big picture look at these years as well as practical tools and exercises to help you build a life full of security, vitality, and community.” (Publisher summary)
How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free by Ernie J. Zelinski
“The key to achieving an active and satisfying retirement involves a great deal more than having adequate financial resources; it also encompasses all other aspects of life–interesting leisure activities, creative pursuits, physical well-being, mental well-being, and solid social support.” (Publisher summary)
I’m imagining retirement as a transition into something less definable than ‘fading gently into the sunset’. Maybe it’s time to take stock of my life and its many mistakes and learn from them as best I can. How can I be of service to others when I don’t have a 9-4:30 job anymore? How can I work on neglected parts of my life with hope and not give in to despair? After all the external labels like ‘Library Marketing Assistant’ are stripped from me, who am I anyways? Somehow I think reflective books as well as works of fiction and movies might be the ticket for me, and maybe for others too.
Here are just a few alternatives for those dreaming about retirement, or who are about to go down this hopeful yet scary path into the unknown with me:
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This perhaps is a movie and a book about how not to retire, a cautionary tale about leaving your job in bitterness!
” …Fredrik Backman’s heartwarming debut is a funny, moving, uplifting tale of love and community that will leave you with a spring in your step… At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d’etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents’ Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.
But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible….”
About Schmidt directed by Alexander Payne
Loosely based on the book of the same name by Louis Begley, this fascinating movie is about self-discovery of a very ordinary person:
“Warren Schmidt is a retired insurance salesman, who at age 66 has no particular plans other than to drive around in the motor home his wife insisted they buy. He’s not altogether bitter, but not happy either, as everything his wife does annoys him, and he disapproves of the man his daughter is about to marry. When his wife suddenly dies, he sets out to postpone the imminent marriage of his daughter to a man he doesn’t like, while coping with discoveries about his late wife and himself in the process.” (rottentomates.com summary)
Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life
by Richard Rohr
“In Falling Upward, Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or ‘gone down’ are the only ones who understand ‘up.’ Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as ‘falling upward.’ In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness. Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens and loss is gain. This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right.” (Publisher summary)
I imagine I concur. Retirement will not be much of anything unless I’ve learned – or am learning – at least from some of the mistakes from my ‘first half of life’.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
This is a quirky yet lovable book about a recently retired man who decides to make profound changes to his predictable life. His long-suffering wife is surprised when he decides to walk 500 miles in an attempt to save a dying work colleague. “It’s the proverbial case of a man going out to mail a letter and never coming home.” (Publisher quote)
Think ‘Forrest Gump’ for the middle-aged. I have an affinity for this book since I took a walking tour of England last summer, but not for 500 miles! Walking I find is a great metaphor for exploring outer and inner worlds at the same time.
Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy by Ann Lamott
“…Lamott ventures to explore where to find meaning in life. We should begin, she suggests, by ‘facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves.’ It’s up to each of us to recognize the presence and importance of mercy everywhere — ‘within us and outside us, all around us’, and to use it to forge a deeper understanding of ourselves and more honest connections with each other. While that can be difficult to do, Lamott argues that it’s crucial, as ‘kindness towards others, beginning with myself, buys us a shot at a warm and generous heart, the greatest prize of all.” (Publisher summary)
Wow. That’s a lot to learn, but I do have the rest of my life. I guess we all do.