Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five, I still had pimples. George Burns

Okay, I’m not sixty-five, but this is the last month on-the-job before I retire from my beloved Shasta College Library. The end of that journey has rushed into view so quickly, yet I know it’s right on time. Soon, a whole new season starts. Much like a good Boy Scout, I want to be prepared.

So, I’ve done some research on the Internet and gleaned some good info. Great retirement quotes like the George Burns quip above. (Can’t you just see him? Squinting as he grins? Then taking a puff off his cigar?) I’ve been watching people who have sailed off on that vessel titled Retirement, cruising into the unknown. There is purpose in their days and they are surrounded with an aura of adventure. How did they get there?

I asked them for advice and they were generous:

  • Schedule yourself to volunteer on a regular basis;
  • Do something kind/helpful for someone every day.

I was glad these came to me first. I’ve worried that I might just fall too deeply into the habit of going to lunch or crafting or…dare I say it? Shopping!  Consider this quote by Patty Doyle: My retirement plan is to find a shopping cart with good snow tires.

I’m not sure if she is referring to becoming a bag lady or shopping in all seasons. I’m thinking shopping. It’s funny, but doesn’t work for me any more. I long to live a life that is worthy of this gift of time. Just what it will look like, I don’t know yet. But my heart is open to suggestions.

When a man retires and time is no longer a matter of urgent importance, his colleagues generally present him with a watch. R.C. Sherriff

That’s so true. But I’m not expecting anyone to give me a watch. Blessed is the woman who is contented with the watch she already has. That’s not a direct quote, btw.

What about these goodies from the rapturous retirees?

  • Don’t commit yourself to any regularly scheduled activity for at least six months;
  • Plan now what you’re going to do in retirement. Otherwise, day tends to follow day without much of anything happening. It’s fine to plan two weeks of travel, visiting, or catching up around the house right after retirement. But have a plan that on a certain day after that you’re going to put yourself on a schedule and make it stick.
  • Decompress that first year. Take the time you need. Don’t make big changes right away. Allow God to guide you.

Do these ideas seem in opposition to you? When I first considered them, they did. But more and more, I see the value of them taken together. Relax, don’t make any big changes or commitments right away, but do turn your heart toward service and develop a schedule so all that precious time won’t just slip away. That seems wise to me.

My personality reacts to free time like this: “There’s an open hour. I’ll book it with this or that.” Soon I’m so busy, I can barely live my life. But that isn’t working as well as it once did. Maybe I’m just getting too old. (Though I repeat, I’m not sixty-five. Not even close.)

Retirement…is when you stop living at work and begin working at living. Unknown Wise Person

And finally:

  • Make friends with your post-work identity – this is a struggle for new retirees.

Oh-oh. Bad news. The struggle is already here and I haven’t retired yet. For months, I’ve been picturing someone coming up to me post-Library job and asking, “What do you do?”

And I hang my head in valueless defeat and reply, “Nothing….”

But that’s not true. I’m an author and excited about having time to write. There will be more time to spend with my granddaughter and my dear Mama will receive more of my attention. I’ll still play violin with my sweet orchestra and lead music at church. Maybe I can dust off my fiddle or learn to play my new penny whistle. I always wanted to play the mandolin, too. (I’m really rolling now!) And there are quilting & cooking classes and critiquing sessions with my writer friends, Bible study and so much more. I may not be maintaining a big Web site or have a fancy title, but I won’t be doing “nothing!”

It’s crazy how even those of us who know better still find so much worth in who we are out there among working ones. I Corinthians 12 talks about all the different parts that make up a body. Each part is important to the whole. This verse talks about parts we see and how interconnected they are. But there are other parts we don’t see or even know about. Without them, the body would fail.

Some dear friends shared how they struggled with this challenge of new identity in retirement. After many years holding jobs with much authority, they felt suddenly insignificant. But they worked through with lots of prayer. These days, they watch their grandchildren several days a week. It doesn’t sound that impressive when folks ask what they do, but they are committed to the task, knowing it may be even more important than their years of work before retirement. Perhaps no one sees what they do, but according to my friend, the unseen parts of the body do vital, valuable work. Just like the parts that are easily seen.

I want to be content to do the unseen thing. That’s the goal. In this world, we are used to measuring ourselves by what we do. Once that title or role is set aside, one can no longer use it to measure worth. But are we not just as important as before? Certainly, we are to God. And whose opinion counts most?

As our church founder and esteemed pastor, Ed Petersen, used to say, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom.”

Amen to that!

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain


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16 responses to “Countdown

  1. Caroleah Johnson

    You are so right, Cathy. We tend to define ourselves by what we do, not who we are. Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is not going to ask us what we did for a living, but rather what we did with his son, Jesus? I’m excited for you as you transition into this new phase of life. Be careful though; most retirees I know don’t know how they ever had time to work!

    • Cathy Elliott

      It’s really all about WHO you know, isn’t it? 🙂 I’m almost embarrassed that this has been any kind of struggle for me, knowing that. But there you go! Thanks, Caroleah, for the wise words.

  2. When my former husband retired several years ago, a wise counselor suggested a one-year, a three-year, and a five-year plan for our futures. Then to take stock at those times to see if the plans were working for us. The other bit of advice was to make a healthy life-style a priority. Retirement allows time for those of us who are no longer Olympic athletes to reap the rewards of pleasant physical activities such as yoga, long walks, water aerobics, or whatever physical activity you enjoy. Whatever you do, it will be just right, as long as you write.

  3. Hi, Cathy…

    I especially appreciate your advice, “Don’t commit yourself to any regularly scheduled activity for at least six months.” I’ve found that it’s far too easy to become overburdened with busyness. Your advice is certainly sound. Thanks, Bill

    • Cathy Elliott

      That was really wise advice, given to me by a lady who is thriving in her retirement. Imitate those who are doing it well, I say! Thanks for dropping by, Bill.

  4. Loved your retirement post, Cathy! Such wise words and wonderful thoughts. One thing I’m looking forward to in your retirement is that you’ll have more time to chat with me. ; ) Enjoy every minute! Roxy

  5. Judy Saunders

    Hi Cathy,
    I have never done this before so I hope this gets to you.
    Don’t be afraid of retirement. It is a new adventure and one that I find very rewarding. Come sew with me. I never have a free minute anymore.
    Love you bunches,

  6. You’re doing great so far. Knowing what you are going to retire to…….that’s the important thing. Go for it!

    • Cathy Elliott

      Jan, if you say all is well, I’m good. You and Don know what you are talking about! You’ve done it well.

  7. Margaret

    Congratulations Cathy!

    I like your website. Only advice? Stay connected!
    with love,

  8. Sister of Mine…

    “Only one life.
    It soon will be past.
    Only what’s done
    For Christ will last…”

    Whatever we do with our time ought be for Him. I wish I had written those words. More so, I wish I had lived those words. You have an opportunity to do just that.

    Love from your old brother,

    • Cathy Elliott

      Mike, my brother and mentor, you always say the right thing, the true thing, and point me to Christ. I love you for it and a million other things. Thank you. Sis

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