Monday, November 21, 2011

On Retirement I

A year ago I retired from the Publications Office at Bard College. C, a retired teacher, says she dislikes the word, with its dictionary definition of withdraw, retreat, recede, and I know what she means; my retiree friends and I have, rather, transitioned into a new life, one we looked forward to and planned for, a life at least as busy as the previous one. 
By using retire I am trying to face up to the word, as I tried to face up to the word widow. I guess I could say I left Bard College, but that’s vague, did I drive away or stick out my thumb? Or that I quit Bard, or resigned, but to me those words imply at least a huff, if not anger. I wasn’t angry, even though the punch line of my retirement was: 
If you ask me to choose between my job and my dog, I’m going to choose the dog. 
Obviously, not everyone has that option; I was, and am, extremely fortunate. 
Lulu Salarygirl
For years I was encouraged to bring the dog to work; then the college policy changed and dogs were forbidden on campus.  Bringing Lulu to work had allowed me to keep her. If, when Dan died, I had been employed almost anywhere else in the world, where you couldn’t bring your dog to work, I would have found her another home. Basenjis need a lot of exercise, and Lulu was particularly lively puppyhead. 
Lulu was helpful at the office, carrying my mittens 
Now it was too late for that. We were sidekicks. Banned from the office, she howled when I left in the morning. We managed that summer with a loyal midday dog sitter and long evening walks, but I couldn’t face coming home every night through the long dark winter to a wired dog.
That is, I had been planning to retire from Bard in June 2011 in any case, so I crunched the numbers yet again to see if I could bow out early. I typed up a list of my assets, which barely filled one page, and walked down the street to the office of my financial adviser (see "A New List," November 4, 2011). 
Again, R’s consideration of my financial status was practical and to the point. He looked at the one sheet of paper and said, OK, you can do it, with neither wild enthusiasm nor dark despair. What about the annuity TIAA-CREF was pitching? I asked. Should I do that? He looked at the ceiling for about four seconds and then said, No, don’t bother, you don’t have enough. With nothing more to discuss, we shook hands and I skipped home.
I have a friend who assesses her life annually, on New Year's Day. She and other friends consider each move carefully, as Dan did, basing it on hours of research. More often I make a decision based on gut feeling and then run with it, hurtling along without a lot of time to think. I’m going to try to develop here, before your eyes, and review and assess the last year.
Preparing for retirement, I made two lists, Concepts and Niggling Matters. I’ll start with Concepts:
Write. I do write more. I should write even more, and so I resolve, but even when I lived on nothing years ago, and wrote for three hours a day, I never felt like I had done enough. Still, I have a novel started . . .
Read books. This meant “don’t get so bogged down with newspapers and magazines,” read books. I am doing that, at the expense of magazines, and, less so, newspapers. Time is finite, I’m healthy, the chores are all mine. In fact, I came up with a way to read while I walk Lulu; more on that later. 
There are three more concepts—freelance editing, Literacy Connections, and yard work—but I’ll close this post here. I don’t ask you to read more than 700 words at a time, and I have a lot more to say.

Images: Ta-Da !!!! by Mary Engelbreit,
             Lulu Salarygirl by Jamie Ficker


  1. thank you for this perfect post, Deb! My last day in the office will be in 2 weeks (not counting Wed)! I want to do the things you do, plus my volunteer work and studying Spanish. Please tell us about the books you're reading!

  2. I have very mixed feelings about being retired. It wasn't as though one day I was employed and the next day not. I took several part time freelance jobs over several years and then there weren't any more. So, I guess I'm retired, but it wasn't really planned like that, so I don't really feel retired. But I am. Ah, the conundrums of life.

    Meanwhile, another lovely blog from you.


  3. We did the due diligence ourselves, and with trepidation took early retirement. Survived two market downturns, and continued to enjoy it.

    Then found ourselves in better health and better financial state than everybody in the rest of the family -- but with not enough health or money to rescue even one of them.

    Never thought about that situation while planning...


  4. I hated the word "retirement"! My solution is to tell people, I retired from my job. That way, I hope to convey that I'm doing other work, writing, editing, etc., just not at "the plant." And I feel exactly the same way about wanting to read books vs. magazines. So now, get back to that novel...