Sunday, March 3, 2013

Life, Death, Work, Changes. . . All on a Sunday Morning?


Since you've been so understanding, and since a number of you have encouraged me to write through this tough time, should I be so inclined, I'm going to try to articulate some of what I'm feeling despite my fear of boring or depressing you. After all, my blog is intended to shine light on women's mid-life to senior years, and sorrow is undeniably part of those years.

But I'm being dishonest -- or just lazy -- if I'm leaving the impression that my low moods lately are simply a reflection of my mom entering her last months. For quite a few months now, and on and off for at least a year, I've also been struggling with fatigue and stress about work. Increasingly, budget-tightening in the academy has meant that many of us work with fewer resources yet greater expectations. Pressure to "recruit and retain." Administrative bloating yet somehow a constant downloading to faculty level so that there is more and more committee work. And those of us at primarily teaching (rather than primarily research) institutions are generally teaching a 4/4 load (4 courses per term) which means a lot of student contact hours and, for writing-heavy courses such as English, a huge marking load.


So many of my students take English only because it's required, so that I'm often teaching resistant learners. And my sympathies are often heavily engaged by my students who have much more complicated lives than used to be associated with campuses -- most work at least part-time; some have  children whose needs compete with homework; many have insecurities from earlier school experiences yet are determined to find success through hard work this time 'round. Disabilities can also be a challenge -- I've had to accommodate student blindness, autism, schizophrenia, as well as regularly helping students recognize and confront depression.  All of this is a privilege in many ways, yes, but it's far, far from what I studied, and it wasn't what I might have chosen career-wise. Above all, it's emotionally draining, and over the past few years I've found less and less energy for any social life of my own outside of family and a few friends. This troubles me, increasingly, as I begin to think about retirement, because I am terrified of any resemblance to my mother's last decades. Terrified. Even as I rationalize the fear, argue away the likelihood -- I'm so much more easy than my mother, socially, and once I have time in retirement, so many interests that I'm likely to pursue in quasi-social settings, I am quite sure, intellectually at least, that I will make new friends -- even with all that self-talk, bolstered by my supportive husband, I am, yes, Terrified.


And fear is exhausting. Especially when it is mixed in with sorrow. And with a huge helping of confusion because I love much of what I do, and once I choose to leap into retirement, there will be no leaping back to part-time teaching. Hiring in the academy, particularly in the humanities, has been so tight for years now that my position will either be filled immediately OR, just as likely, will be struck from permanent status to sessional hiring in order to make the institutional budget work. There might be a chance of my picking up some of that sessional teaching, but it would generally be of the less satisfying courses, at considerably less pay, and with inconveniently short notice. I will not be able, as my husband has been, to pick and choose from various consulting possibilities, and 60+ is not the best age for re-imagining the perfect part-time work. Granted, our financial situation is solid enough that despite my paltry pension (my late start at outside-the-home work), we would not have to tighten the belts too drastically. But I feel. . . .safer? more empowered? . . . with a healthy paycheque of my very own. . . . And my Professor self -- no, even more, my Working Self -- is a huge part of my identity. I'm not sure what it will be like to let that go. . .

I wrote the above paragraphs earlier this week. Since then, I have taken advantage of Reading Break to rest and rest and think and rest. Paul and I have talked through some of my concerns, and I am feeling much more positive about heading into the rest of term. I'm giving myself permission, for one thing, to feel emotionally fatigued and not beat myself up about it. The link I feel to my mom and my siblings right now does take away from what I can do in my classes, but that doesn't mean I'm a poor teacher. I will do my best in a difficult, but temporary, period, and sometimes that will mean less than what my best is in happier times. 

I will also try my best not to feel guilty when all I can do is knit or read a mystery novel or watch a movie on Netflix. I will continue to "waste" some of my energy on my running because I feel so much better when I free myself into movement. And I will pay attention to the many positive moments I find in my work -- because those moments are there, although they often get forgotten in a miasma of exhaustion.

I'm not going to ignore any creeping or persistent unhappiness, however. I am beginning to entertain the possibility of retirement. I have a great line-up of courses to teach next year (two 4th-year courses, one of which focusses on a favourite writer), so I suspect it will be no problem to get through. But whereas I've been saying for years that I will work 'til at least 65, I'm beginning to develop some positive images of what I might do if I started my next stage of life at, say, 61. The possibilities are rich. . . . 

So that's a start at thinking through some of my recent "down" mood. Obviously, much of this has been sadness about "helping my mother home" (in Duchess's friend's term -- see recent comments). Life's big sorrows, though, have a tendency to fold other troubles in, to remind us of earlier loss, to exacerbate concerns in various areas of our life, to magnify vulnerabilities. I'm trying to remember that it's the context of loss I'm operating in right now makes me crave retreat, and that this context will pass. But I'm also going to listen to that desire for retreat, to attend to its possible persistence, and to allow enough room to imagine a positive and healing retreat that might be good preparation for the next part of my years here. . .

The photos, by the way, are of last evening's sky, just at sunset (we face Northeast, so that tint of pink is but a reflection of the sun sinking behind our backs). I thought that the obviously changing sky, full of brooding possibility, made a suitable accompaniment to my ruminations. . .

So tell me: have you crossed that threshold into Retirement? Elizabeth posted how she's feeling, Four Years On, about having taken that big decision, and I found the details of her experience very helpful. I know that others among my readers are contemplating the move, or have scaled back their work in readiness for it, while others wish they could take the step but worry about the financial implications. I'd love to know where you're at in this process and what the biggest factors are in your decision-making or in your happiness with the decision you have made.

39 comments:

  1. Mater, you have so much on your mind lately, are being pulled in so many different directions.
    I guess you could say I am going through a kind of 'retirement', since I have been a stay-at-home mum for many years now, and this is slowly coming to an end as our youngest son is coming closer to graduation. It's been a difficult year and a half for me since out move back to Canada - I was so busy before that I don't think I had properly processed my mum's death (Christmas 2008). I think that was also due to my being somewhat removed from her illness, in that I still lived far away. I'm taking a while to think about what I want to do next - we move again next year, back to a place where we have more contacts, where I'll feel more comfortable. So, not quite the same, but still an unsettling time.
    Add to this the fact that we talk a lot about my husband's retirement (in about 6 years' time). Frankly, I don't want to be too busy elsewhere when my husband is retired - I want to spend the time with him! We have lots of plans for travel etc. - got to get that out of our system before any grandchildren appear!

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    1. I would say that you are going through a very important transition right now and moving around must complicate that, especially given a delayed response to losing your Mom. Sounds as if you and your husband have a very supportive relationship and I suspect you'll find your way to the next phase of life together quite happily. Especially finally having a home you can settle into without future moves on the horizon.

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  2. I feel many of the same emotions that you expressed so eloquently in this post. That is why I have decided to retire this June at the end of the school term. I had planned to work until 60 but now feel it's OK to stop at 58. Like you my pension will be smaller as I re-entered the work force after staying home for 10 years to raise my family.
    You must listen to your heart.
    Retirement is a new beginning and most of my retired friends are actively enjoying their days and traveling around the globe.
    It is food for thought!

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    1. I'll be very interested in seeing you bloom into your retirement. The more models, the better!

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  3. Don't beat yourself up over being exhausted in your work. Teaching is all-consuming and the diverse needs of students can emotionally drain the most enthusiastic teacher. I studied French Literature and ended up, with cutbacks in school library funding, teaching Grade 3 French Immersion. I have been retired for one and a half years now and much of that time was spent "seeing my father home" I was glad to be retired because I had a closer relationship with my dad that I have had since my early childhood. I will always be a learner/teacher in whatever endeavour I choose to follow. Like you, I was a later entry into the workforce so pension is really not an issue. We live in a mortgage-free apartment which we renovated to our taste before retirement. Our money goes to my travel and Monsieur's hobbies. As for work, I used to teach ESL to adults as an extra job when my daughter was young and I found great fulfillment in it. Not such great pay. If you like to travel, my brother has found contract work with the Ministry of Education checking out off-shore schools that are issuing the Dogwood Certificate. When you decide to retire,you will find a wealth of opportunities.



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    1. So much wisdom in what you say, and your blog is a lovely demonstration of the possibilities retirement offers -- thank you for your thoughtful support.

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  4. Such a complex topic.

    I can't help but wonder how you will feel once your mom moves to the next stage, and your time with her is done. There's the faint possibility that this period is coloring everything you think and feel.

    But I also can imagine that the job is changing, and not in a good way. I think caring for students who have life issues is a wholly different job than being a professor, and I can imagine having little patience for one, despite one's fondness for the other. Doesn't make you a bad person. You didn't sign up to be social worker. Someone else would like that part, and struggle with the more content-based part.

    From where I sit, as you know, it's always seemed to me that you have a perfect life. You can run, you have a wonderful long-time partner, five children, grandchildren, a house on on island, financial freedom, and a job working in reading and writing. My god!

    So if you aren't enjoying yourself, seems almost a waste not to make the change.

    My own experience with un-retiring, I will save for another day. Happy Sunday, F., to your and yours.

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    1. I do suspect this period is colouring my thoughts about work right now, so I'm going to commit to one more year, depending how I feel over the summer.
      Chuckling at the idea of my life being perfect -- although I must admit it's pretty damn good. But you're right, it does seem wasteful to squander possibilities that might budge unhappiness.
      And I'll be waiting for when "another day" comes. . . . Happy Monday to you (too late, now, for Sunday . . .;-)

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  5. Your beautifully written posts are inevitably thought-provoking and evocative. I think, in reading this, that the statement "I'm giving myself permission, for one thing, to feel emotionally fatigued and not beat myself up about it" most resonates with my own experiences over the past several years, as I helped my own mother home (another fine phrase), married, saw my only child begin a new life across the country, and adjusted to my own retirement/not retirement/semi-retirement as my freelance workload has burgeoned and waned and reburgeoned unexpectedly.

    I applied for my social security early, since I believe strongly in having a bird in the hand even if it means a smaller bird at a later date, and that had been an unexpected tipping point for me - I must acknowledge a shift in my status that I previously chose to overlook, and many nagging questions have arisen that beg to be addressed.

    I am still stunned to realize that I no longer have all the time in the world to do what I want to do, and prioritizing is stressful (but often pleasantly so). In the words of Mary Oliver, as quoted by one of my clients now writing her memoir, I find that I cannot any longer avoid confronting what I plan to do with my "one wild and precious life."

    Your recognition of the importance of giving oneself permission to feel emotionally fatigued is helpful to me, and when I have done so, I have almost always found that the fatigue is relieved - I release the pressure to stay strong, positive, and hearty and thus am more able to be those things. You will be, too.

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    1. Isn't it funny that we should need to give ourselves permission to feel fatigued -- there really is this sense to be stalwart and chipper and a trooper, etc. etc.
      You make retirement sound intriguing, full of some interesting possibilities. Thank you for that!

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  6. Your beautifully written posts are inevitably thought-provoking and evocative. I think, in reading this, that the statement "I'm giving myself permission, for one thing, to feel emotionally fatigued and not beat myself up about it" most resonates with my own experiences over the past several years, as I helped my own mother home (another fine phrase), married, saw my only child begin a new life across the country, and adjusted to my own retirement/not retirement/semi-retirement as my freelance workload has burgeoned and waned and reburgeoned unexpectedly.

    I applied for my social security early, since I believe strongly in having a bird in the hand even if it means a smaller bird at a later date, and that had been an unexpected tipping point for me - I must acknowledge a shift in my status that I previously chose to overlook, and many nagging questions have arisen that beg to be addressed.

    I am still stunned to realize that I no longer have all the time in the world to do what I want to do, and prioritizing is stressful (but often pleasantly so). In the words of Mary Oliver, as quoted by one of my clients now writing her memoir, I find that I cannot any longer avoid confronting what I plan to do with my "one wild and precious life."

    Your recognition of the importance of giving oneself permission to feel emotionally fatigued is helpful to me, and when I have done so, I have almost always found that the fatigue is relieved - I release the pressure to stay strong, positive, and hearty and thus am more able to be those things. You will be, too.

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  7. Mater, I agree with all LPC has written. I am not yet at retirement but when times are tough I have strong desire to retreat. Having spent 4 months on garden leave I can say it was wonderful to have the time to myself, to reflect, to have an empty brain and to know what it can be like not to have work. I have always been so worried about my identity outside of work. Somedays I felt like there would not be one. Having 4 months off I know is a little bit unreal but I felt more like myself than I have done in years. I agree with LPC, you always seem to have such a perfect life. But life is life and it is the reality of it that matters, the feeling of it to you and yours. You will know what you need to do when it is right for you to do it. It sounds like a time of change is drawing near.

    I will read with interest what your time brings. Please keep writing and sharing. Have a Happy Sunday.

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    1. I had a research leave the year before last, and it was pretty wonderful. I still had the pressure of producing a few articles to justify my time away from campus, but the freedom from an externally imposed schedule was just delicious. And at some point while I'm still healthy, I would like a protracted period of getting up in the morning and figuring out what I really want to do. . . .and then being able to do just that.
      Thanks for taking the time to encourage me.

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  8. as said above, you've been in my mind recently and I send you strength in these difficult times. but thank you for using some of your precious time to share - i am very lucky to have you for advice as I start at the beginning of my return into work.

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    1. Aw, thanks! I'm wishing you all the best as you head into your new career -- you'll be spectacular, I know!

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  9. So much going on here - and so many different pressures to weigh up and work out ... It really does sound like the load you carry with your job is much more than it should be, taking much of the pleasure (even though it's always hard work) out of the teaching. It's such a shame you can't just scale back - having to make an all-or-nothing decision is probably not something you need at this point. But as you say, give yourself permission to feel as you're feeling, and perhaps things will look different in a few months. Or perhaps they won't and it will be time for you to take another course ...

    Spouse and I face entirely different challenges, being of the luckless Gen X - we will not have the financial option of retirement before 70, and even then it will be a struggle. I didn't stop work when my kids were born - I couldn't afford to - and although I'm mostly very lucky with the flexible work I do, sometimes I wish I could just NOT work for a while, have some thinking time. But then, of course, there's the issue of who I'd be without my work identity.

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    1. I wish that I could scale back, but there's no room for half-time work -- and I'm not sure if it would be worth it anyway, given the pressure to do committee stuff, etc.
      I know that I'm lucky to have the option to retire. . . I also think I'm lucky that we had our kids so early that we learned to be happy on a tight budget. I suspect I could ramp those skills up again quickly. But yes, finally, the work identity. We'll see. . . at least I've begun imagining how it might look . . . thanks for helping me see another side.

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  10. Please keep writing through this,Mater. It's good to share and help others who might be facing similar things now or in the future. I'm so glad to hear that you have so many family members helping with your mother's care.

    Kitty

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    1. I'm curious about you Kitty. Hard to imagine that you might retire, your work is such a passion for you. But there was a time I thought that of myself . . . The sharing does help, doesn't it? Thanks. . .

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  11. Mater, I am always struck by the power and beauty of your writing, but I have been especially so these past few posts. I hope you continue to write and share here as you weigh decisions and options as you face these challenges.

    I sometimes (although I'm only at the beginning of my academic career) feel the exhaustion you describe here in terms of the demands of teaching in environments that are increasingly less conducive to doing the best for our students and ourselves. Most of the time I love what I do, but as I spend my Sunday afternoon marking essays and writing lecture notes I do feel a bit of wistful envy that my now-non-academic husband leaves work at work and has his evenings and weekends for himself.

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    1. Thanks, Ray. I really appreciate your kind words.
      I worry sometimes about my young colleagues -- I think a 4/4 load in an institution that also has some expectations of research-- especially with the reality of committee work that has resulted from the constant workcreep/admin downloading -- is going to be unsustainable for a career long enough to generate a decent pension. Especially given the reality of the long time we spend getting ready for the job, building those PhDs and CVs. I hope it's more sustainable in a research/teaching position like yours. . . but I can imagine that bit of envy you feel . . . ;-)

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  12. Your post today is an eery reminder of my feelings four years ago when I was debating the decision to retire from my college teaching position. Part of the difficulty was that I still loved being in the classroom and working with my colleagues, my teaching evaluations were (well, at least for 90% of my students) positive, and I had enough seniority to have some clout with administration if I chose to employ it. On the surface, it seemed insane to voluntarily leave such a position when I didn't have to retire for another five years.

    But, as you so eloquently detail in your opening paragraphs, there was much that simmered below the surface that depleted my energy and enthusiasm. The hours spent on campus mired in administrative details, meetings that were long on discussion and short on action, and emotionally draining sessions with students whose needs were beyond my capabilities, coupled with increased class numbers and a marking load that took over my weekends and evenings, often left me frustrated, exhausted, and sleepless.

    Oddly enough, I made the decision to retire on a sunny day in March, walking back to my office after a class that had gone exceptionally well. It seemed like an appropriate way to say goodbye to twenty-five years of a career that had been, for the most part, satisfying and enjoyable. Instead of returning to my office, I walked over to the administration offices, collected the paperwork, and retreated to my office to mull things over for a few days before actually signing and submitting the documents. And I've never regretted the decision that I made that day.

    For what it's worth, I think the decision to retire is right when you are ready to change your life. It's like chosing to leave a job to return to school, or deciding to get married, or having a child; your current life can be good but what you want has shifted.

    In my case, I wanted to spend more time with people that I loved while I was still able to do things with them that we both enjoyed. I also wanted to re-connect with myself and to have the luxury of choosing what I wanted to do in a day instead of having others make that decision for me. I could cope with a reduced income if that meant I could enjoy a sunrise, read for pleasure, or play with a grandchild without feeling that nagging sense of guilt at what I "ought" to be doing with that time. Before I retired, I thought of retirement as a time of travel and relaxation; those ideas are true, to a degree, but the biggest change that retirement has brought is in my day-to-day life. In my case, I smile more frequently, sleep more soundly, take better care of my health, and feel more sense of the possibilities that lie ahead. Not a bad way to spend the final decades of my life, I'm thinking.

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    1. I am so pleased and grateful that you took the time to comment here, Marilyn. I really hope that I will be able to follow your example -- I don't want to keep working if I'm unhappy, and I'd love to leave while I'm still finding much to love about what I do. I have a good year planned, course-wise, next year, and increasingly, I'm allowing myself to imagine it as my swan song. Thanks so much for letting me see what that might look like. It really sounds as if you've opened a great new chapter for yourself -- enjoy!

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  13. Well, I can't even fathom retirement (from a practical perspective) but I have to tell you my unvarnished truth about it. I think it is the most WONDERFUL milestone of them all. When my work colleagues retire (as they do more and more these days), I am 1 part envious beyond belief and 4 parts thrilled to bits for them. You know, graduation, embarking on a career, marriage and kids are all great, but the moment when you move into age-sanctioned leisure (whatever that means to you), that's the first moment of true freedom you've probably ever had.

    I think of you and your family often and I hope that you will all find peace through this transition.

    I know that right now you are managing so many emotional complexions. It's not the time, I imagine, to make any definitive decisions. Just to allow yourself to be with and to consider how great transformation (and, yes, grief) can change your life in huge, ways (in its own time) and in smaller ways too.

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    1. I know I'm lucky to have this option to consider, and I'm looking at it differently knowing how many people would take it in a flash. You are so supportive -- thanks!!
      And you're so right -- I've never had any kind of sustained freedom, ever. I don't want to miss a chance to check that out.

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  14. Dear Mater, it is not surprising that you are drained emotionally and wrestling with whether to retire. You are thoughtful and I know you will do what you need to do. I'm just seconding the other thoughtful comments, as I am an older college prof who has also dealt with profound loss. Wanted to let you know that you have another sympathetic, empathetic reader. Best regards.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to let me know I have company. It means so much. . .

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  15. You've fruitfully engaged in this dialogue before and I'm glad you've resumed the discussion - the central fact of Choice in our lives as women, which is a welcome privilege, but also somewhat anxiety-evoking as all choice engenders closing down some options whilst nurturing others. And at certain points in life, yes, some options are indeed final (eg fertility/child bearing, and in your case and particular circumstances, retiring from academe) and I think it is wise to grasp that, in real life as opposed to an idealised one, some roads do end. But having accepted that fact, and mourned it, one gets on with relishing the manifold delights of the positive paths one has elected to tread.

    You mention 'retreat', perhaps metaphorically,but I , as an a communicant Anglican, have actually at several life junctures gone into retreat for a few days to a week, at Malling Abbey in Kent, UK. In fact, the lovely nuns there do not pry about the scope of one's Faith and accept all comers. In such surroundings, of silence and a different sort of routine, I have grasped the answers that were within me all along. I can't control the outcome of my actions following those epiphanies, but I can be at peace with the results, no matter how they unfold, because I made them with deliberation and conviction in a manner which was emotionally, intellectually and morally congruent for me at the time.

    When I am your age, 59, my baby daughter will only be 18. Will i be around? I certainly hope so (childhood in tropics, a genetic predisposition to skin cancer. And Life will happen in between, with all its complexities and unexpectedness). But I am secure in the knowledge that having my children as an older mother, and stepping out of academia for good, was the absolutely right call to make. I will do everything in my power to consolidate the potential for an on going happy outcome to that call.

    What's that saying, that luck is opportunity meeting preparedness? Or something along those lines. I network, update skills, keep an eye out for how I might like to map my future work outside of the home one day, so I am proactive in that respect. Yet, I also allow myself to enjoy the choices I've made and dispense with the, frankly, pointless angst about what I might be 'missing out' on. Decision made, I move on.

    Apols for the essay, as you may tell, this topic exercises me greatly, as I have had so many in my life tell me bluntly that I have been mad to walk away from my career (Oxbridge, blah blah). Sometimes I have to remind myself that yes, I really did mean this, I did indeed make the choice with head, heart and soul in mutual accord. It works for me, the dissenters are not in my shoes. Fortune favours the brave and bold!

    Hester

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    1. It's a discussion we should have more often, in more places, I think. Choice, as women. I chose to be home while my children were young and it was just so obviously the right choice for me that I had no trouble with it. I do need to sit with this one for longer -- and perhaps in a special environment -- a supported silent retreat sounds wonderful, something I have some tiny experience with, way, way back in my Catholic school days. . .
      I think I will continue to circle 'round the topic, and I will always welcome your comments, long and short, epigram and essay. Thank you.

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  16. You have so much to cope with right now, no wonder all this is exhausting, overwhelming and leaves you off-balance. As others say, taking care of yourself right now-never mind retirement-is a priority. Not a failing, a priority.

    At almost 65, my experience is that it's a lot healthier and happier to live on less than to do what it took to earn while enduring the stress.

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    1. I don't think the money is holding me back, although it's a consideration, of course -- It's the identity and the various satisfactions that work offers. Despite having a number of other activities and interests beckoning from every corner.
      We shall see. . . It does help to have happy models from the other side of the line. Thanks!

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  18. Dear Mater, I am late to this post (terribly busy weekend) but I relate to so much of it, on many levels. What you've outlined, in terms of analysis and strategies, makes sense to me. You can always change your mind about time frames, but I like the idea of putting retirement on the table as a possibility. You'll know more as time goes on. As you know, I left my MA program because I was not prepared to take on the social worker aspect of teaching.

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    1. I would imagine that some of what I'm giving myself permission to think about -- retiring earlier than I had originally planned -- must feel similar to your choosing to leave the MA program you had seen as beginning an important new chapter. And it's pretty clear that you're feeling much happier having made that tough choice. Inspiring, thanks!

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    2. Didn't mean to imply that your decision rests on financial aspects. For me, making quite a lot of money was not just about income, it was part of my professional achievement.

      And it has been surprise to find how used I was to that level of discretionary income.

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  19. I've had to take my time responding to this post, Mater. Our lives are running on such parallel tracks that I feel I might run the risk of just coming across as very 'me too'. I don't want to do that at all.
    Like you, I am contemplating retirement after one more year. Sometimes I imagine that I will implode before I get to the magic date.
    Good for you for giving yourself permission to consider an earlier retirement. We don't know what the future holds. At this point I believe that one or two more years of healthy, happy enjoyment of home and family is waaaaaay more important than the position and the pension.

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    1. I have no problem with "me too" -- it's good to know that others are dealing with uncannily similar issues -- and perhaps some collective wisdom will emerge. If we had more time and lived just a wee bit closer, I think we'd have a brilliant conversation over a glass of wine and figure it all out!

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  20. I was going to say that I empathise but then I had to acknowledge that what I really meant is that I have been there, so no real empathy, no reaches of the imagination into how it feels to be another, is required at all. I just remember!
    The big thing for me was identity. I was terrified that in leaving my job, which had for so long been such a big part of how I defined myself, I would cease to be me. I think (and apologies to all my friends who made a positive choice to take this route and loved it) I had a fear of "dwindling into a wife". I don't know why it mattered to me so much, other than that in my first marriage I made choices which left me feeling totally defined by my relationships. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all relationships matter. But I loved the way that in my job I was just me. Most of the nights that I spent thinking about what to do and staring into the dark were dominated by a fear of losing myself.
    It is entirely strange that it has not been an issue. Maybe I just got older. I don't know. I am probably more strongly myself now than I have been. I didn't retire when I left my other job, because I thought I was too young (54) and also I couldn't really afford to. So I still do some freelance work and I enjoy the doing of it but constantly pull back from being absorbed again. I too had to accept that when I left my previous very specialist job I would be obsolete within months. There are other things to do that you don't even imagine when your time is consumed by your professional life. It took me a year or so to find them.
    Go for it. If you are thinking of it in this way it shows that you have reached a new stage in your life. I wouldn't go back to where I was for the world, even though my new life has thrown up challenges I never expected. Good luck! I suspect that whatever you do you will do wholeheartedly and well.

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    1. Yes, identity is what it is for me. Hearing from so many women who have made the move, though, is beginning to loosen up my thinking (no, really, it's moving toward the feeling, even more important!). I have so many interests that there will be no lack of ways to fill my time, but there's something about paid work that signals value in a way I've been conditioned to need. Still thinking that through, but I'm really feeling closer and closer to ready. Your input helped a great deal, thank you!

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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