Transition to Retirement: It’s Starting to Feel Real


July 26, 2013 by Jean

I am a long-range planner. (I used to joke that if I washed out of academia, I could pursue an alternate career as a five-year planner for the Kremlin.) So for years now, I’ve been planning for retirement – saving money, calculating income projections and working out possible budgets, imagining how I would spend my days, and planning an addition on my Maine house. But all this planning had a day-dreaming quality. Until now.

As I prepare to go back to Pennsylvania for the beginning of my last year of teaching at Gettysburg College, my coming retirement is beginning to feel real. I’ve been involved in a flurry of preparations to build an addition on the small house that I’ve been living in part-time for more than 20 years and which will become my full-time home next May. I’ve met with an architect, signed a contract for his services, and begun to contact contractors. With the architect’s conceptual drawings (below) in hand, I can imagine myself moving through the new space. In the few weeks remaining before I leave for Pennsylvania, I expect to choose a contractor for the project.

House Addition Layout

All of this has a “night before Christmas” feel – combining the child’s excitement about what Santa might bring and the adult’s realization that 20 people are coming for Christmas dinner and the meal needs to be organized, cooked, and on the table at the appointed time!

I am a very practical person, so the excitement of anticipation soon gives way to practical considerations. I am realizing that when I return here next May, I will not only be bringing many of the belongings that have been part of my Pennsylvania life; I will be living for several months in a house that is under construction. For at least part of the that time, my living space will be compressed into the back two rooms (less than 500 square feet). This has triggered a whole list of things that need to be done to prepare that reduced living space. In particular, my current study needs to begin its transformation into the guest room that it will become after the addition is completed. Then there is the outdoor to-do list: Three different flower beds will be in the path of construction. Before I return to Gettysburg in three weeks, I need to prepare a temporary flower bed for all the garden plants that need to be moved out of harm’s way.

All of this leaves me feeling a bit breathless – both breathless with excitement and breathless with exertion (and maybe a tiny bit breathless with trepidation). Suddenly the idea that I am “stepping into my future” is not just a metaphor; it is feeling very, solidly real.

7 thoughts on “Transition to Retirement: It’s Starting to Feel Real

  1. I am rethinking my plans and wondering now what will the planning and paths be….trying to get through a very busy time at work prepping for the new school year and closing out the old. The addition looks wonderful but my that is a lot of prep work especially with the garden…don’t overdo it Jean.

    • Jean says:

      Donna, I am prioritizing my summer to-do list, letting go of some things and putting others on the front burner. The temporary flower bed to save plants from the path of construction (or, in this case, destruction) has moved into first place. I can get it done if I work on it for a few hours 3 days each week. Actually moving the plants will be easy. A lot of them are daylilies that can just be popped out of the ground with my garden fork, loaded in the wheelbarrow and replanted quickly in the temporary bed. If I don’t get all the plants moved this month, I can finish the rest in the spring.

  2. Jean says:

    What a wonderful addition! I love the blueprint—I’ve been drawing and reading them since high school. Your new addition ties in great with the older part of the house and I love all the access to the outdoors that you have. You’ll have to research moving options. Some companies have units that can sit on your property for as long as you want, unpacked, until you’re ready to move your stuff inside your new dwelling. That might make living in a construction zone easier.

    • Jean says:

      Jean, Thanks for the suggestion about the portable units that can sit on my property. I also want to look at the possibility of having whatever moving company I hire for the Gettysburg-Maine move storing everything at one end or the other until I’m ready for it. (The advantage I see to this is that they would move everything into the house.)

  3. Wow, what exciting plans! I’m not used to reading blueprints, but your additions look wonderful. And Jean’s (the above commenter) suggestion about those portable units sounds perfect. And it’s hard to believe it’s almost time for you to start school again! I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts as experience your final teaching year.

    • Jean says:

      Emily, I must admit that right now I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by the coming school year. Today, I started working on preparing syllabi and assignments for my three courses. I need to start getting myself into the mindset to work all those long hours one last time. (My usual mantra for getting through my killer three-course semester is to keep repeating “I can do anything for 15 weeks; I can do anything for 15 weeks….”) Today, I was looking at my calender for next spring to set a date for a talk I’m going to do in Maine while I’m home for spring break and it was fun to see notations in my calendar like “Last day of classes — Ever!!!” and “Final (really final!!) grades due” And on the day after the notation “Commencement,” the notation “Retirement!!!!” 🙂

      • Just your description of prepping for those 3 courses (3 different ones? yikes!) brought it all back to me. But I love your mantra; wish I’d used it when I was still teaching. And I was on the quarter system so it would have been “I can do anything for 10 weeks.” : -)
        But it’s great that you’ve got those benchmarks on your calendar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

I am Jean Potuchek, a professional sociologist who has just stepped into the next phase of my life, retirement, after more than thirty years of college teaching. This blog is about my experience of that new phase of life.

Please join me as I step into my future.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Visit My Garden Blog

Jean's Garden

%d bloggers like this: