This week I finished my work as a part-time research nurse with UNC School of Medicine–Psychiatry Department. It’s the position I took six months after retiring from my full-time job as a school nurse– which I’d done for twenty years of my forty-four year career. UNC was where I began in nursing after graduating there in May of 1977. Ending my career where I started felt like coming full circle. Now, it’s time to Really Retire— no more part-time gradual exits, no more hanging on to that career security–time to just let go.
When I retired from that job in March of 2017, I was ready to leave but uncertain about the next steps.
Now, I look back at what I wrote in a blog post Afraid of the Next Chapter and see the irony of comparing anything to my marriage that would dissolve a couple years later.
“The week I retired from school nursing reminded me of the week I got married; unbelievable that it was my turn to enter a new chapter of life. I’d watched many of my friends retiring like I’d watched those who married before me, observing them for how to approach that new venture, going to them for advice. But ultimately, it felt a bit surreal and like I’d set the whole process in motion and couldn’t stop it now. It was awkward, like I wasn’t sure where I was stepping and while people told me about their experiences of retirement, I knew it was different for each person. I had to go it alone. While most of me was tired and ready for my new life, part of me was scared, afraid of the next chapter.“
At that time, I had no idea that my marriage would be ending after my school nursing retirement.
I was used to my routine, working the ten months of the academic year with two months off in summer; the daily rhythm of a middle school and the way time is measured there; the certainty of knowing where I would be for eight hours each weekday with little free time to fret. I think that as much as I fight routine, there is a feeling of safety when things stay the same. It gives me a sense of control, of knowing where to place my feet instead of feeling like I’m off kilter.
I was in a waiting period, writing a lot, planning a trip, and hoping to hear back from a part-time job as a research nurse–which is the one I just ended. I wrestled with how to spend my day without the familiar tasks of school nursing, feeling a bit uneasy for no apparent reason.
I’d thought I would establish a coaching business and a writing business during that intial period after leaving the school. I was so tired and at a loss for what to do next. Looking at those two goals, it came to me, “It’s not realistic to start two businesses simultaneously.” My coaching class had emphasized Underpromising when it came to weekly goals (described in post Underpromising: Is that Settling?). I’d never started a business and didn’t know all the steps involved.
Ultimately, I decided to just go with my heart and write– working on my memoir to move it toward publication.
Reading my post now, I see the entry from my journal notation:
“I return to what I’d written in my devotional book, “First day of school and I’m not there. Feels empty.”
then the rest of that entry
“but also feels like I’ve moved on and I’m full of wonder with how God is going to move in my life.”
Like my wedding day, now forty years ago, we will trust the process as we approach a new chapter, that is both scary and exciting, with plot twists that we couldn’t anticipate.
WOW! “plot twists that we couldn’t anticipate” I’ll say!
Now, it’s almost four and a half years since I moved into the part-time position as research nurse and had more free time. I experienced some of what retirement is like, but now, I’m ready to move on and experience more of the freedom and relaxation which is full retirement. I’m ready to put my RN license into retired status, which had felt risky four years ago but feels right now.
Many people I know have needed to approach retirement gradually. I’ve always worked–beginning as a girl growing up on a farm and earning money working in tobacco after fifth grade. Now I feel more secure and ready to completely let go–and see where this Real Retirement leads. As I said before, “I’m full of wonder with how God is going to move in my life.” I think this also relates to the loss of my marriage and the desire that I’ve expressed in my Online Dating posts to find a new life partner.
Now that I’ve Really Retired, my hope is for that leisurely time that allows for good things to unfold.
I don’t know what situation you’re in– if perhaps you’re gradually retiring or transitioning to something else. My hope for you, is that you’ll find what you need to move forward.
Blessings on you in the week ahead, whatever steps you’re taking.