Retirement offers a new way of being


MARCH 27, 2022 7:00 AM

“How’s retirement?” This is the latest question I hear on a regular basis. On Dec. 31, 2021, I retired from my main, full-time job. I continue to work part-time for Tides and serve a small church. This was a big decision for me and folks who know me responded with “a smile of doubt” when I began to share about retiring.

I get that! I am hard-wired to work. “Life is Good” states: “Do what you love, Love what you do.” Throughout my life I have had the privilege of enjoying my work, no matter what/where I was engaged in it. Although I am certain of my decision to retire, I had concerns about making this transition. Since hard-wired to work, I was worried I might “short-circuit.”

Ironically, decades ago, I presented a workshop for Penn State entitled: “I Can’t Wait to Retire,” which invited people to actually address their hopes, fears and concerns about retirement. This is a major life transition and for some can create a “loss of self” because many of us feel we are what we do. Without my work, who am I?

I believe I share a bit of that philosophy. However, I would say that I tried to bring all of who I am to my work. I hope to do the same in my retirement. I am curious though about my “retired self.” Self-exploration and growth are a natural part of life. We experience transitions throughout our lives and wonder, what will I be when I grow up? When you decide to share your life with someone, you wonder about the kind of partner you’ll be and will it change you? If you have children, what kind of parent will I be? Throughout life I like to reflect on this question: Who am I now?

Life and its changes shape and reshape us. A favorite definition of grief is: the conflicting feelings caused by a change or end in a familiar pattern of behavior (from “When Children Grieve”). I am experiencing those mixed emotions, along with grief. Whenever we make a change, there is always grief. I miss my co-workers. I miss parts of the work. And, I am enjoying less clock watching and not having to plan everyday around my work schedule.

As a grief and loss specialist I can see similarities in this new transition to retirement. Will it alter my identity? My sense of myself? Even though I thought about it and prepared for it, I am now experiencing the reality of it. It’s like having a loved one battling cancer and you know as the disease progresses, they will die. However, when that moment comes it can still be shocking and though preparing for it, we now feel unprepared.

I will confess that I have been quite busy with my other jobs. I am grateful to have more time and energy for those important tasks. So, my new response is that I am semi-retired, which not only fits the reality of things but also more realistically reflects who I am. However I define it, it is a new experience. My personal definition of retirement is: to get tired in new ways! I’m energized at times and exhausted at other times.

So, how is retirement for me? It’s quite similar to my life up to this point. I’m grateful to be at this point in my life. I’m blessed to be healthy and have the resources to travel and continue to do the things I enjoy – which still includes working. I hope to explore new avenues and spend more time outdoors. I hope to discover new parts of myself in this new chapter of life.

I have spent my life being me. There was a time when folks would ask what I do. And I would reply: “I do Evelyn.” No matter where I am in my life’s journey, I hope I always be me and continue to discover who I am becoming.

Evelyn Wald is semi-retired but continues to be the Program Director for Tides and a facilitator of support groups. This column is coordinated by, whose mission is to create educational and conversational opportunities for meaningful intergenerational exchanges on loss, grief, growth and transformation.

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