Early Emotional Responses to Retirement and Developing a Structure to Test

My first official day of retirement was the 1st of January 2022, though my last official day at work was the 17thof December. I was technically on annual leave from the 18th of December until the 31st. I say technically I was on annual leave because, like most academics, I still did some work while I was on leave. I didn’t quite get everything done before my ‘final’ day. I finished the last reports I needed to complete before I could retire in good faith on the 30th of December. I then made sure all my emails were cleared and all personal files were off university systems. It was such a strange feeling when all of that was done, and I was a bit surprised by the strange hole that suddenly opened in my gut. I had a momentary panic, but that soon passed. But then, the reality of retirement hadn’t really sunk in yet. In many ways it felt like being on Christmas break. 

On the 2nd of January I had a real moment of, ‘oh shit this is real’ when the University changed my IT permissions. I knew that I would briefly lose access to all systems and then some would be restored because of my emeritus status. But when it happened, I actually felt hurt, like ‘how could they do this to me? Don’t you know who I am?’ I had to laugh at myself and my reaction. Of course, that must happen. I’m not an employee anymore, I don’t need or want access to all that sensitive data anymore, and more importantly, it would be corporately irresponsible and against GDPR if the University still allowed access to all those systems. I knew all of that, but it still took my breath away when it happened. It was the first moment that it was clear that I was no longer in role and was retired. My position of privilege and power was over. By the end of that week, I received the formal confirmation that the Emeritus was now in the system, and I had access to the university resources I was entitled to as an Emeritus Professor…. another marker of the transition.  

It wasn’t until it was time to ‘go back to work’ last week that I finally began to feel retired. Even that was delayed a wee bit as we had a friend visiting for the 4th and 5th of January, so it wasn’t until the Thursday and Friday that I felt like I ‘should’ be at work. In those two days I was able to do my bits on a co-authored paper and do an article review for a journal. I also began the planning for another article I am starting to work on. I also had longer exercise sessions, longer meditation periods, long walks with my husband and dogs at lunch. Those were nice days, but not quite the shape I think I want. 

This past weekend felt like my first retired weekend. Normally on a Sunday (or the day or two before going back to work after holiday) I would start worrying about all the things I needed to do before Monday morning and/or for the week ahead. Suddenly that anxiety was gone. I am still getting that occasional pang of sadness that the important chapter in my life (being an academic and a Dean) was over.  I have moments where I think it ended too soon and that there was still unfinished business to take care of. But mostly, I feel a sense of hope and optimism about what is next. 

I’m really aware I need to have a shape and a structure to my days/time or I’ll become anxious and unhappy. Work gave a lot of shape and structure to how I lived my life, but now I’ll need to create my own shape and structure. I’ve reflected on my first 3 ½ weeks of retirement, my pre-retirement planning and goal setting, and my theme for the year (restoration) and have come up with a shape for my days. I’ll try this structure out for a month or two and see how it fits, how it nurtures, how it supports the restoration of my physique and my psyche.  I won’t be rigid about it, but having a basic structure will be helpful to me. 

Early Morning – The plan is to wake up at my regular time (6:30ish) and after walking the dogs, do my exercise, mediation, have breakfast, complete morning ablutions. This was my pattern for most of my working life especially for the past 6-7 years. Now, however I have more time for exercise and meditation so I am spending more time.

Mid Morning- Complete routine tasks and errands from to do list

Lunch- Healthy lunch and nice walk with dogs and husband

Afternoon- Spend 2-4 hours engaged in activities to feed the mind: writing, blogging, doctoral supervision preparation, learning French, other learning activities, etc

Evening – fun

We’ll see how this basic shape works.

1 thought on “Early Emotional Responses to Retirement and Developing a Structure to Test

  1. Thomas Veit

    Sounds really sensible Tim, I am just looking forward to not doing anything after 30 odd years of racing at 150mph. I had three weeks off over Xmas and it was bliss. Keep blogging so I know what to do… See you soon T


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