One of my “resolutions” after having retired from the public school system after 35 years as a School Psychologist, was to begin writing about my “retirement” experiences. Here it is 4 months later and the pen has yet to hit the paper, or should I say keystroke to document? I am running out of excuses and my fall-back, “I just don’t have the time” is honestly no longer applicable. I have been spurred into action, however, after conducting a journaling workshop with my friend, Liz, at the UCC annual women’s conference this past weekend. The workshop, “What’s in Your Empty Nest?” was intended to provide participants with a creative journaling exercise to help explore the dreams and aspirations we may have put on hold due to work and family responsibilities as well as how to create a fun and interesting life after our “nests” are empty. The group was primarily women of the baby boomer generation who have also become known as the “sandwich” generation as they are caught between still caring for school or college aged children while also taking on responsibility for the caretaking of aging parents. Many women in this category also continue to either juggle a career or are venturing into retirement.
One woman spoke of having “retired” from an agency job after many years only to begin a private professional practice out of a lifetime need to feel productive. This helped her achieve some degree of financial success, although she now found that she had little time to have fun and enjoy activities such as gardening, which brought her greater personal and spiritual satisfaction. She is now attempting to strike a better balance between staying busy and productive with really living out her dreams. Sometimes this retirement thing requires more reflection and energy than it might appear on the surface. As a friend of mine recently said, “I thought retirement consisted of walking on the beach and spending more time with your family”, but that’s not the way it always works out.
Another woman recently retired from a busy law practice. Her husband is several years older and they had planned to spend a large amount of time traveling after she retired while they were both healthy and vital enough to do so. Simultaneously, the woman’s father died and her mother moved in to fill what had once been the couple’s empty nest. The woman is now finding that achieving her dream is more elusive as she takes on caretaking for her mother.
As women in similar circumstances we may find that our dreams have become rerouted or need to be revised due to changing circumstances or as our nests empty and fill up again. But, in any case, we need to protect ourselves from abandoning our dreams altogether and to help each other around obstacles and to keep them in sight.