Friday, January 27, 2017

Wrote the Letter; Set the Date

Here's my news of a lifetime. I have decided to retire!

Not only have I made the decision but I have met with my supervisor, set the date, and submitted my letter of retirement/resignation. My retirement date is June 30, 2017, and now that I have put it into writing, it is irrevocable according to the human resources rules at my workplace.

Drum roll.

You know how sometimes you don't know if you have made the right choice until after the thing has happened? Like when I left my leadership role in June 2016 after many months of agonizing over whether I should; it wasn't until after I stepped out the door and began my leave from work that I truly knew I had made the right decision. I wrote about it here.

So how do I feel about retiring now that the irrevocable decision has been made?

Well, the first and most overwhelming emotion was relief. I felt tremendous relief that my decision was finally made. The process of making this decision has been grueling and it has taken a long time. The uncertainty was hard to live with.

I also felt a huge sense of relief that I wouldn't have to go back to work. As I would have been starting in quite a different role, it would have required a lot of hard work and a significant time commitment to do the new job well. (And it is my nature that I must throw myself into every job and excel at it. I have never learned moderation.) I finally realized that I do not have the energy and passion for it anymore. I just don't want to have to work that hard. (In my mind, I can hear everyone who knows me laughing their heads off at this statement!)

I felt light, as though my head and shoulders were floating way above the ground. A huge weight has been taken off my shoulders.

My supervisor, lovely man that he is, made the whole process so much easier. I will have an honorary title and be able to maintain an affiliation with my institution after I retire. There is the potential for me to take on short-term contracts. He even suggested that I could request keeping my office and some professional development funds for a time-limited period after retirement. These things go a long way toward addressing the identity issue that has been such a big factor in my anxiety about retiring. I might never take on a contract, and if we move I will not need to keep my office, but just having these possibilities in the background in case, you know, it turns out that I can't figure out what to do with myself in retirement, puts my mind at ease.

I felt that time suddenly sped up. There are other decisions that hinge on this one, so making the decision to retire has created a domino effect initiating other decisions and actions. Now we will begin getting the house ready to put on the market, selling it, deciding where and when to move, buying a house somewhere else, and moving.

I felt released to act again. While I was in the purgatory of indecision, it was hard to focus on things or to take any steps because I couldn't see my way forward. I was wandering in circles. Since submitting my letter, I have suddenly thrown myself into a couple of projects that I committed to do during my leave.

I felt surprised that once the decision was made, it seemed so obvious. Why had I been fretting about it for so long?

I felt tremendous gratitude toward Rob for being so patient with me and letting the process play out without pressuring me.

In terms of the responses of others close to me, Rob is so happy that I have made the decision, finally, to retire. In fact, I feel a certain degree of guilt for having been so focused on MY decision all this time. This decision will have a huge impact on both of our lives, not just on me.

Our kids responded with a range of responses. To one, it was no surprise at all. It was obvious that I had been moving in this direction for a long time. Another was completely thrilled and joyful. Another was pleased that I had made a choice that would enhance my own well-being, finally stepping away from the workaholic choices that have characterized my past. And another was cautiously optimistic, knowing how much my work identity has always been so important to me. One hasn't heard the news yet.

However, it was no surprise to anyone. To them, it was obvious that I was moving toward retirement and they all clearly thought that it was a good idea. Even my supervisor at work said he was kind of anticipating it. In a sense, I was the last to know that I was ready to retire!

I still haven't had a chance to phone my friends and family to discuss my exciting news. But I sure am grateful for all their support, and the many long conversations over the past year helping to talk me through the decision.

As a funny postscript, I submitted the letter late last Friday afternoon. That way, I had the whole weekend to "test" the decision. Knowing that my supervisor would be unlikely look in his mail slot until Monday, I had a whole weekend to contemplate the possibility of racing to my workplace and removing the irrevocable letter before he saw it. I didn't do it, of course, but I sure do like to torture myself!


  1. Congratulations Jude! Thank you so much for sharing your story. There is a lot of power in your words and the process (torture!) you went through to get to sending that letter. I especially connected to that "weight" being lifted. We also have very similar work ethics, so I definitely see how this process needed to play itself out. I am hoping to be able to join you on June 30th in "retiring" too. I will still need to keep a small online job (to continue earning retirement system credit) until I can officially retire in 5 years to collect my pension. But I want to be able to choose what I do in terms of work and consulting, rather than have a set schedule as I have right now. If you would be willing, I'd love to share this post with my other readers!

  2. So happy for you Jude! Welcome to The Rest of Your Life! You are young and healthy and have many opportunities ahead of you. Savor the moment. Enjoy the process of developing a flow that will be the new you.

  3. Congratulations, Jude. I am so happy for you! Somehow I don't think that you will have even one moment in your retirement when you "can't figure out what to do with yourself". Yup, it's a bet!

  4. Thanks Vicki! I need to tell you that the decision-making strategies that you have written about on your blog were very helpful to me as I worked my way through my retirement decision. Wow, wouldn't that be cool if we both retire the same month! We'll have to have a virtual celebration.

    And in answer to your question, I would be honoured if you shared my post with your other readers. I know that reading about others' retirement processes has helped me, so hopefully my experience might be helpful to others.

  5. Carole, thanks for your kind words. Letting go of my work identity has been a struggle as for so long I have been focused on what I am leaving behind. But now that the switch has been flipped, I'm getting excited about all the possibilities that the future holds. I just have to make sure that I don't somehow, by default, end up spending all my time as a couch potato!

  6. Donna, I am doing a happy dance! Whoo-hoo, it's really happening!

    Maybe you're right about the bet. I really can't recall any time in my life that I lacked for things to do, so I guess there's no reason to start now. I'll just have a lot more time and freedom to choose what to do instead of having to spend my time doing what a place of employment requires me to do.

  7. Terrific Jude! And yes, a virtual celebration it will be!

  8. Congratulations for the rest of your life =8-})


  9. Thank-you Jeffrey! I have to tell you that your blog that you with your amazing plain air paintings was one of things that first set my mind to musing about possibly retiring. Once I retire, I'll have more time for art!

  10. So glad you made the decision and can now "go for it" all the way. I hear you about the time of indecision and can imagine the relief after making the plunge ("cutting the rope" in Dutch). On the other hand, it is nice to have some options, like keeping the office or the possibility to accept contracts. Even if you never use it, it will feel better mentally. When I left Belgium indefinitely, I could go back to my teaching job for ten years. It felt nice to have that in the back of my head, since I had always loved the job. After ten years, I officially "resigned", and while I knew I would probably never go back, it still felt like a big thing to cut all my ties.

  11. Liesbet, I like the idiom of "cutting the rope." Somehow, that seems like a more accurate description than "taking the plunge." Yes, it does help, psychologically, to be able to maintain some ties and possible work options.... just in case. I can imagine that it was a big decision for you to officially resign from your teaching job. Yet, I suppose in some ways, it is important for a person to ackowledge that their life has moved on to new and different things.

    Back to taking a plunge -- when I go swimming, I am the person who inches into the water bit by bit, rather than diving straight in. But then, our lakes are pretty cold in Canada.