"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The rite of passage into retirement

By on March 31, 2019 in Uncategorized with 3 Comments
Ken Reid is learning new skills and having fun at his part-time job in retirement at Sunny FM radio station.

By Linda Reid

Retirement can be a dream we anticipate much of our working lives but then, suddenly, it happens to you and there are challenges that you just didn’t expect. 

My husband, Ken, and I started that transition into retirement (after much thought and planning) in April of 2016 when we bought our retirement home in East Wenatchee. I retired from 37 years of teaching in Seattle that June, we listed our house (where we had lived for 46 years) in July, and by mid-August we closed the door to “our house,” which was no longer ours, and headed east. 

The only person we knew in Wenatchee was my gastroenterologist, who had been my doctor in Seattle 20 years ago. (I had also taught his kids.) All reference points had been knocked out from under us in that three-hour drive across the mountains. 

Friends who had retired ahead of us cautioned us about this transition and advised us that perhaps we were making too many changes too fast, but we pretty much ignored that advice with our “we can do this” attitude. 

What we didn’t understand then was we were entering a rite of passage that would transition us from our working lives to our retirement lives. 

Now we know this is an emotional transition from adulthood to elderhood and we discovered it can contain almost as much trauma and drama as the rite of passage we go through in adolescence as we move from being a child in our family home to becoming a grown-up in the outside world. 

I know we experienced isolation, emotional upheaval from our uprooting, loss of solid ground under our feet and certainly a search for the answers to our questions: “Who am I now?” and “What do I do now?” 

We have discovered it takes time and patience. It takes determination and simultaneously reaching deep inside and outside of yourself. It takes willingness to take on new responsibilities and to step into your new community, sometimes with baby steps and sometimes with boldness. 

At first there is much to be done with all the unpacking and getting situated. We were happy to be here and loved our new home and our neighborhood, but it was mostly just the two of us and we weren’t used to that. 

Ken had worked at several different careers from radio, to a family manufacturing business, to the Seattle recycling program, to the cell phone industry, to video production, to real estate. 

All those occupations were dependent on relating to people, which, as a natural extrovert, he does very well. Working with people has always motivated him and infused him with positive energy. 

As a music teacher, I was used to interacting with hundreds of students every day, dozens of other faculty members and sometimes with parents. 

We soon realized we needed more interactions than only the two of us could provide for each other. We took some classes, participated in yoga at the senior center and found some volunteer opportunities with the local chapter of the Red Cross. 

I also got involved in facilitating a grief support group. I joined a writing group. We began to connect with more and more people. 

We already had friends in Leavenworth we had known from our former lives in Seattle and we met their friends, too. We have great neighbors and we found a new church where more relationships have been built. We once again had connections and a social life. 

Somehow, all of that still wasn’t quite enough for either of us. 

We had both intended to do some part-time work once we were settled here. I even applied to sub for the Eastmont School District in the fall of 2017, but never actually activated my application. I just plain wasn’t ready for that yet. 

Ken just didn’t know which direction to go since his work life had been so varied. 

We hit our two-year anniversary in our new home in August of 2018. Shortly after that, Ken took the plunge and decided he would look for part-time work in radio, which was his original passion. It didn’t take long until he found just the right fit at Sunny FM Radio. 

The schedule was flexible, his boss, Dave Herald, and all the other people at the station were friendly and welcoming. He is learning new skills, using and refining familiar ones and having the time of his life. 

Since he was taking the plunge into the world of part-time work, I decided it was time to set foot back in the classroom again. After two years of not being with kiddos, I realized I still had gas in my tank, so I activated my substitute status and found regular work immediately. 

It was good to be back doing what I have always been passionate about. (But I am glad I’m not doing it every day!)

The reason I’m sharing this is to let other recent retirees know there is a good life during retirement years and one aspect of it might just be going back to work part-time. 

We found a deep-seated need to continue to share our gifts with the community while keeping active and engaged with people in this life-giving place. 

Volunteering is great and we are still fully committed to it but there is also something, perhaps related to self-esteem or validation, which helps you feel valued when you produce even just a little extra income. 

Of course, having that “little extra” is something most retirees do appreciate and put to good use. As a good friend of ours says about his wife who has had several part-time jobs in her retirement years, “My wife loves her W-2s!” 

We do too, but it isn’t really about the money at all, any more than volunteering is about the lack of it. It’s about investing in community to give back, to pay it forward, to connect generations, to give and receive life-energy in order to experience solidarity. 

People in our community help us define who we are. The connections we make and the way we choose to share our time, skills, gifts and wisdom, in turn, helps to strengthen and expand what the community itself is. 

Our experiences tell us our relationship with Wenatchee is already becoming a mutually beneficial one as we embrace our passage into retirement. 

Linda and Ken Reid have lived in East Wenatchee for nearly three years now. They love running into people they know when they are out and about in the community. It’s a sure sign of belonging. 

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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Lyndi Taylor says:

    Hi Linda, what a beautiful and well-written discription of what the retirement stage looks like.

  2. Darlene says:

    Profoundly written!
    You are an inspiration to all in staying fully engaged and celebrating every stage of life…

  3. Arlis says:

    Linda, loved this. Well written. We can relate with our decision to be snowbirds, a real transition too.

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