Employable

I learned a lot of good stuff while I was working.  I figured most of it would immediately become moot the day I retired.  That assumption is probably correct, but I’ve found I actually did learn some transferable skills.

Recently, I’ve been struggling to fight my way through the administrative jungle involved in applying for financial aid to help with my mother’s care.  After hiring one law firm to help, I quickly realized that my own background provided a much better machete for slicing my way through the undergrowth. For several months, I fought through vines and branches of internet research on my own, trying to understand the eligibility and documentation requirements.  I spent a lot of energy wandering around in useless circles without clearing much of the jungle out of my way.

It was exhausting, but even inefficient persistent activity can sometimes result in progress.   Using the experience and education I amassed during a 30 plus year career in bureaucracy as a basis for my analysis, I slowly began to understand what was going to be necessary and how to ask the right questions. A kind stranger also gave me a referral to a specialty law firm.  That law firm helped me trade in my blunted, bedraggled machete for an earthmover.  Working with the staff of the new law firm, I was able to work more methodically and spend my energy on the activities that were going to matter.  Rather quickly, I was able to see some light at the other end of the jungle.  I’m still whacking away at low-lying branches, but I’m getting there.

During that process, I met with the office manager of the law firm.  She did the initial interview, pointed me in the right documentation-gathering direction, and assigned a caseworker to help me.  In our conversation, she asked what I did for a living before I retired.  When I explained the progression of my career and what my role was when I stopped working for a living, she offered me a job in her office.  I could kind of see her thought process.  My career was actually very similar to the kind of work her office does.  On the other hand, her offer stunned me.

I never contemplated working after I retired.  That was never part of the plan.  While I was still in my job, people used to talk about how well I could do if I went into private practice when I retired.  I reacted to those comments with complete bafflement.  What would be the point of retiring if I was going to keep working?   In my mind, I would just keep my steady job with a nice income and benefits if I wanted to work for a living.

Yes, I understood that some people liked the idea of having their own business and being their own boss, but it always just sounded like a lot of extra trouble to me.  Yes, I understood that some people think they can reduce their hours and stress when they work after retirement.  I’m not sure I buy it, especially for someone like me.  I believe God gives us all talents and expects us to develop them.  My talent happens to be worrying. I have spent a lifetime learning to excel at it.  I’m not sure it matters how few hours I work.  I would be wor”ry”king full time.  Yes, I understood that some people are passionate about their work and can’t imagine giving it up completely.  I can almost get behind that argument. If there was some opportunity to get paid for working at some passion of mine, I might concede.  But battling bureaucracy?  I don’t think that’s anyone’s idea of passion.

Still, when the office manager asked me about coming to work for the law firm, my first impulse was to try to figure out a way to make it work.  My brain immediately stumbled over obstacles to device possible strategies that would allow me to work at a job (that I didn’t even want) while also taking care of my mother, doing the tasks necessary to keep my household running smoothly, writing the blog, maintaining my relationships, and trying to have some sort of fun in my “spare time.”

I think this process reveals a congenital defect in my reasoning ability.  At some point very early on in my life, I somehow bought into a pretty basic fallacy.  If someone asks me to do something, it must make sense for me to do it.  I spent a good deal of my career attempting to fulfill that fallacy.  I often didn’t consider whether I actually wanted to do a particular job or assignment or even if it was feasible for me to do it. I figured that, if someone was asking me to do it, it must be possible and it must be a good idea for me to do it.  I’m not saying that this was always a bad thing.  In fact, following other people’s plans for  how I should spend my time and energy was a good thing in some ways.  If I had stopped to consult my own preferences, I might have passed up some opportunities I ultimately enjoyed and from which I profited.  It is sometimes easier to stretch your capabilities when someone else is pushing you than when you try to expand your horizons under your own power.  Still, there were also other “opportunities” that would have been better left untapped… at least by me… and I would not have been tapping them if left to my own devices.

This time, though, when the office manager offered me the job, I managed to stop myself before agreeing.  I let myself live in an awkward pause while I did not immediately reply to her suggestion.  During that time, I am sure my face did express a certain degree of horror at the whole idea.  Initially, the office manager thought I didn’t realize she was serious.  She started reassuring me that the offer was real.  She extolled the virtues of the position.  I was still not responding.  She got the idea that I was either dimwitted or just not interested.  She looked kind of embarrassed and unsure of how to extricate herself from this particular line of conversation.  My mind unfroze and I bailed her out, explaining that I just didn’t see how I could take on anything else while caring for my mother.  The office manager seemed happy to let the matter go, but did mention that I should call her when I “got bored.”

I’m not bored and I don’t foresee myself getting bored.  On the other hand, part of my mind still keeps revisiting that job offer.  It was heartening to have someone validate my value on the job market.  I felt kind of sassy and swaggery.  The whole exchange was very flattering. I think part of me has always kind of felt that most of my success in my career was due to simple longevity.  The fact that someone wanted to hire me for a professional position to do something new and different makes me think that maybe there was at least some actual talent fueling my career success.

I haven’t done anything mad like calling back and asking for the job.  The bottom line is that I don’t want the job, but it’s very nice to be asked.

What do you think?  Have you ever considered starting to work again after you’ve retired?  How is it working out for you?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a pleasantly busy day!

Terri 🙂

8 thoughts on “Employable”

  1. I retired in 2014 after a long and successful career in state government. Unfortunately, not being a hobby or volunteer person, I quickly got bored and restless. After 11 months I went back to work at a job that was much lower down the chain than my state government. After two years at the new job, I realized that I was just going through the motions. Thus, I am now back in retirement mode looking for direction. My spouse still works and I think that makes my adjustment more difficult.

    1. Hi, Walter! Thanks for reading. I’m sorry to hear that you are encountering some bumps in the road looking for direction in retirement. I agree that it is probably more difficult because your spouse is still working. Max retired before I did and pretty much took over all the household chores and the management of our shared life, which freed up a lot of my time when I was off work. That enabled us to do a lot of things together when I wasn’t working.

      It sounds to me like you are looking for something I call a “powerful project.” I’ve written about this concept in an earlier post. A powerful project is a series of activities that are pleasurable, have purpose, build on each other towards an end goal, and spark passion for you. For me, writing this blog is one of my powerful projects that gives some structure and heft to my life.

      What about your job was satisfying enough to motivate you to try to go back? Were there aspects of it you really liked? Could you replicate some of those in a different job or by starting your own business or by writing about them? I’m not thinking super literal about those favored aspects, just general concepts. Was it working with people, problem-solving, building your technical knowledge? Maybe you could do something with those interests. Remember, you don’t have to worry about reaching any particular standard of success or meeting anyone’s expectations… except your own expectations of happiness.

      Good luck! I know you’ll hit on something. In the meantime, I hope you’ll let yourself just enjoy the process of exploration.

      Here’s the link for the “Get A Life” post that gives more information about “powerful projects”:
      http://www.terrilabonte.com/tag/life-enrichment/

  2. Terri, I really enjoyed this blog awa “Powerful Projects.” After 34 yrs of scheduling my waking hours to get stuff done at work and home awa have fun time, I am over formal work, be it full-time or part-time. However, I do housework for spending money. The time is scheduled, for the most part, but there’s flexibility if something comes up (on the part of the employers as well) whether that be varying the start/end time or skipping a week altogether if I have to be away. The flexibility of the hours is important to me. I’m a practical person who enjoys making money while exercising. Many of my friends laugh at me but I find housework to be meditative and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from closing the door on a clean home. I also like being of service to the young families who hire me, freeing their time for other things. I realize that being of service is important to me so I volunteer at the local elementary school and with a community organization. I also host a series of 6 Home Routes folk concerts Oct-Apr that satisfies a need for socializing and hosting and the arts. I’m still guilty of “justifying” my retirement; volunteering is a form of “earning” my retirement pay even though I know that I earned my retirement and invested in it for 34 yrs. Boredom is not in my vocabulary. Even though there is always a list of things undone, I always say that when there’s nothing to do, I can always go for a walk or read a book. I have a strong work ethic that was cultivated in the farm life of my childhood and that’s been hard to shake. I would never want to be seen as “lazy” so I sometimes find myself fighting the urge to do rather than be. The 4 cornerstones of a powerful project helped me to identify those things that I am passionate about. Neil Pasricha wrote the books “The Book of Awesome” and “The Happiness Equation”. He cites the 4 S’s of satisfying work – social, structure, stimulation, story. I liken them to your 4 cornerstones of the powerful project – satisfying life? powerful life?

    1. Mona, I think you sound like an expert at grounding your life with powerful projects. I agree that the happiness principles are similar to my powerful project pillars. Maybe sime of what you say will resonate for Walter, too. I know what you mean about housework. When I was working, I really hated it. Now that doing housework isn’t scavenging the few moments of time to myself outside of work, I really enjoy it. It isn’t easy, but it is kind of simple- you don’t have to make complex decisions and it is easy to see immediate accomplishments! Thanks for chiming in!

  3. My old school called and begged me to come back and teach a class that they could not line up a teacher for. I took the job. Big mistake. I left at the end of the semester (totally new set of students at semester, so no abandonment issues). I haven’t set foot in a classroom since. My time is my time. If the garden needs watering or a book needs to be read, I am present in the task. Heaven!

    1. Hi, Jan! Thanks for your comment. Maybe taking the job wasn’t a mistake, if it showed you definitively that you don’t want to teach any more. That’s one thing I really love about retirement. For me, it seems easier to experiment with activities and opportunities without feeling like they were a waste if they don’t work out successfully. I’m not sure why since time is a finite commodity, whether I am working or not. Still, since I retired, I tend to see experimentation as more of an investment than a wasted opportunity to do something more successful.

  4. Hi Terri. I’m still working part-time as a consultant in the same area that I used to work full-time. What I like about the consulting work is I only take on projects doing the work elements I liked doing… & none of the elements I didn’t like. I can be selective because I don’t need to work for financial reasons. I do it because I enjoy the mind stimulation that the projects require and I love it when the work output is being recognized. And yes, I find validation in the fact that people want me to work on their projects. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue to do this part-time work. I know I have to watch-out pretty regularly that the workaholic in me doesn’t take over. And I still worry that I should find other things besides work to fill my time. But right now, it’s a good mix of part-time and play-time.

    1. Hi Pat!
      I’m glad you have found the right balance for you right now. Congratulations! It sounds like you have the best of both worlds!
      Terri 🤗

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