Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Retirement III

“You’re retired! You should love what you do.”

That’s what the coordinator for the snack bar volunteers at the AMTRAK station in Hudson told me.

An acquaintance roped me into becoming a snack bar volunteer late last fall, right after I retired from Bard College. She needed someone to cover for her while she went off to Florida for six months. I figured it was a worthy cause, I’d enjoy the interaction with the public, and who knows whom I might meet   . . .

I did enjoy the public interaction, but that was the only thing about the gig that I liked, and during my hours there was seldom any public to interact with. In the meantime, my trainer, the lady on her way to Florida, was a grump, and I counted the money wrong the first time I did it by myself because I have some skills in communication but none in arithmetic.

Further, the Florida lady’s time slot was alternate Sunday evenings, which led to the self-discovery that I did not want to give up a Sunday evening to, basically, commerce. If I’m not seeing friends of a Sunday, then I’m home chilling with the dog, immersed in the Times, gearing up for the coming week, that kind of thing.

Finally, the snack bar supports the Hudson Day Care Center, which is a worthy cause, but it’s not my worthy cause. I have several such causes; I need to focus on them.

The grumpy lady was tootling down to Florida by the time I figured all this out. I prepared to call to the coordinator of volunteers, a woman I barely knew. I made some notes, saying some of the above in a kinder way. Nervous, guilty, I dialed; I had resigned from jobs before, knowing my employer would survive; I could do this.

I barely got through #1 on my list before the coordinator interrupted me.

You’re retired! she said. You should love what you do.

Well, I said. Yes.

She had the staffing challenge and my guilt problem solved in less than five minutes. I loved her. I would have done anything for her. But I didn’t have to.

Do I now love everything I do? No. Oneathesedays, when I have a free moment, I will print out that phrase in a nice big font and hang it above my desk. Still, I’m getting there, learning to say no, to worthy causes and even to part-time jobs I don’t have time for.

Should I turn down any job? Who do I think I am?

The other night we got a couple of inches of snow, nuisance snow because it comes with all the shoveling and slippery roads but none of the fun. For freelancers, I’m learning, there are nuisance jobs, perfectly commendable work that pays, not much, and still requires focused attention, good writing, and research, as if it paid a lot. I could fill a five-day workweek with little jobs and then scramble, shifting things around nights and weekends, when a big job came in.

I really could do this.

But I wouldn’t love it.

All this is code for saying that I’m going out of the press-release writing business.

Next: Why I bailed out on a worthy cause that I loved.


  1. You are my hero! Or, more properly I suppose, my heroine! Good for you! It's so easy in retirement to fall into all our co-dependent ways. Well, I'm not working, so of course, I should do the work no one else has time to do. Etc, etc. But no, we don't have to fill in everyone else's holes. We are as entitled as anyone, even employed people, to do as much of what we want as possible. Of course, you realize I am not so much trying to convince you of that as myself.

  2. The best advice my psychotherapist ever gave me was "Learn to say 'no.'"


    1. Wonderful! That's the phrase I should type out and hang up at my desk.

  3. Ditto to all you wrote, Debbie. This approach applies to unwanted email from organizations that are worthy but just not your priority as well as fundraising requests. We can't do it all! We never could, but it may seem to others that now we can.

    1. Good point. Having read your reply, I had the courage to delete an e-mail from "Caroline Kennedy." I was saving it to read, but I don't have time, and it doesn't really need me.