Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Four Fears

So I combined the worry gene I got from my mother with the methodical gene I got from my father and divided my fears/concerns about retirement into four categories. What do you think?

1. Financial (the obvious): Paycheck, benefits (health insurance is the biggie), plus all those benefits you get that you don’t think of until you have to pay for them yourself. For me, the most important of these will be gym membership, discounts at various stores, consulting jobs that won’t be available to me once I’m no longer affiliated with the university.

2. Psychological: Part of my self-definition is “I’m a college professor.” Will I feel something missing when I can’t say that? Also, at all but the most abysmal jobs (and my job is far from abysmal), you get strokes. You do in writing too, but writing is also a lot about rejection—rejections from agents and editors, bad reviews, critical emails from readers. Will they hurt more when I don’t have the comfort of students saying nice things to/about me, and colleagues telling me I do a good job?

3. Social: I know that a lot of my work friendships will end when I’m no longer in daily contact with people. If you run into someone in the hall, it’s easy to go out for lunch together. Will I make the effort to call people? Will they make the effort to call me? How will I make new friends?

 4. Writing: This may sound weird, but will I actually write less? I’m never as productive over the summer as I think I’ll be. Will that be true when I’m on constant summer break? Or conversely, will I forget to give myself time off, and write all the time? Another issue is that I write for young adults. Where will I meet young adults, if not in the classroom?

Some of these overlap. For instance, financial + psychological: I’ve never been supported by anyone but my parents, and although my husband is generously and cheerfully ready to pick up anything I’m unable to pay for, I’m not ready for that.

Which of these—if any—concern you the most as you contemplate retirement? Those of you who have already done it—how did you deal with these issues, and what haven’t I thought of? What other categories should we explore together?

P.S. I plan to post every Wednesday. I already have a great bunch of guest bloggers lined up and would love more, so please let me know if you’re interested.


  1. While your questions stem out of retirement, they are the same questions one hits when going freelance full time. #1 is the most jarring - losing a steady paycheck really does change your outlook. And as somebody who's been working since I was 14, that one is probably the hardest to deal with. #2 - Yes, it's hard. You're the only one who can really pat you on the back. However, #3 can save the day. Make a point to have lunch at least once a week with a friend. It will save your sanity - it has mine! #4 - I surprised myself when I went freelance. I wondered if I'd have the dedication. Ironically, I found it was harder to make myself Stop working rather than start. Maybe it will be the same for you. All said, I wish you much luck with this new chapter! May it bring joyous discoveries! :) e

  2. All this thinking and planning--I'm sure you'll be fine. Maybe you should read Chris Guillebeau's blog or Simple Dollar--those guys chucked conventional jobs for what seem like relatively fun careers. As for me, I always assume I'll land on my feet, although quitting my last job has left me rather high and dry; but I had to quit it because the job was a soul-killer. As for your identity as a prof--that won't change even if you're not teaching. I *am* a librarian whether I'm employed as one or not. I have no health insurance, but I was so underpaid that I couldn't afford to see a doctor even when I was working (I haven't seen a doctor or dentist since 1999). I'm not sure what you're worried about. You have a husband, presumably no debts, and a vocation. If you need more structure in order to write more and you miss social aspects of your job, you can volunteer. I volunteer at the high school, helping kids write scholarship essays; at the elementary school, helping kids learn to play instruments; and with a parent group, helping to write grants.

  3. E, For me, retiring = going freelance full-time, so no wonder they are the same concerns!
    Thanks for the suggestions, antigold--I hadn't thought about the grant-writing possibility. Sounds interesting!

  4. All transitions can be both exhilarating and terrifying. But it sounds like you've got your arms around this one.

  5. I've been writing full time for five years now -- I still grapple with question #4 on an almost daily basis.

  6. Which way do you go, Jonathan? Do you write all the time or less than you hoped?