As I gathered my briefcase, purse, and lunch from my car and headed up to my office this morning, I remembered I’d be welcoming a new co-worker today.

She comes from another campus in our community college district, and I’m looking forward to working with her and making her feel like a part of our team.

Being the Old Newbie

This is what everyone did for me a few months ago on my first day, and it’s one of the reasons I like working here so much. My fellow employees have all been helpful, encouraging, and supportive to me as the new kid on the block.

The funny thing about being that newbie is that I actually first started working here in 1986. I was a month shy of 35 the day I began as a journalism professor and student newspaper adviser, and I was scared to death. Even then, though, I felt welcomed and supported.

Because the job was quite intense, I kind of slogged through it, learning as I went, but I was often so busy I was almost unaware of what all I was experiencing as a human. I went on to work here more than 20 years, eventually moving to another college in the district as a dean for several years before I retired.

Enter Retirement, or Not Quite

The day I packed my personal belongings in a cardboard box and started my new life as a retired person was amazing. I could set my own schedule, plan my own activities, and appreciate all the unplanned time in front of me. I loved the sense of freedom that retirement provided.

But I also struggled a little with having quite so much free time. I had worked for more than 30 years by then, and I realized I did best when I had a schedule. I experimented with my own daily agendas and to-do lists, but when I was occasionally asked to come back to work in an interim role, I was kind of relieved.

I ended up working about half of every year, which was nice. I still had time for fun and hobbies, I made some extra money, and the work provided me with the sense of meaning I had felt was missing when I was fully retired.

Being Back to Work Builds Character

Then, one of those interim jobs was so enjoyable and meaningful that I decided to apply for the permanent version when it opened. I was lucky enough to get it, so I rescinded my retirement and started anew in January.

It’s a fun position with lots to absorb, but I’ve actually learned the most about myself and what it’s really like to be at this stage of one’s life. At 67, I feel as if I’m starting all over – but with the time, consciousness, and emotional maturity to really learn and build an even more substantial person.

When we’re younger, raising families, buying houses, paying bills, and figuring out all of the other aspects of adulthood, there is rarely the opportunity to take in what we’re learning and how we’re going about developing ourselves as people.

My new foray into working is completely different. It’s not that my life is without issues, but it isn’t anything like it was when I was in my 30s and 40s and working while managing all of the other things we face at those ages.

There are lots of ways this experience makes me feel like a whole new person, but there are four that stand out.

I Have a Clarity I’ve Never Experienced Before

Throughout my “first” career, handling work – and home and family and all – was like constantly sorting through a really full, messy closet to find my shoes. There was never time to clean everything up, and even if I did, I would lose control of it in a day.

When we are doing so much in our lives, it’s almost impossible to find and maintain clarity. We might have moments or weekends of enlightenment and resolve about what we need to do to get everything done and do it well, but those get easily lost in the next week full of commitments.

These days, I simply have more time and more opportunity to learn.

I Am More Interested in What I’m Engaged in

When we’re always behind, forever late, and frequently stressed, it’s hard to take sustained pleasure and interest in what we’re doing. In my new life, I’m still busy and occasionally stressed, but it’s relative.

I know I don’t have to do this forever, so the tension is automatically less. Plus, I’ve had enough of a career before this to know what I like and what I don’t. I feel blessed to have had the chance to choose my focus this time around, and it makes it much more engaging.

I Have a Deep Sense of Self-Appreciation

I’ve learned to value who I am and what I’m doing, and this isn’t bragging. I simply have more perspective than I did throughout much of my career when I was striving and feeling overworked.

When we’re in mid-life, we tend to compare ourselves (often negatively) to others, and it’s hard to truly welcome our own take on what we’re doing.

From my new vantage point I appreciate the wisdom I bring. Plus, my ego is no longer so involved, so I’m open to asking questions and showing what I don’t know.

I See an Open Door in Front of Me

Because we aren’t particularly creative about the arc of our lives, many of us imagine college, work, family, retirement, relaxing – usually in that order. And that makes for a lovely track for most of us. But with good health and fitness, 65 may be a very early age for many of us to settle down on the porch.

Doing this new job gives me the feeling of being young and growing again, with many possibilities ahead of me. I’m not unrealistically thinking I’ll live forever, but I love all of the new dreaming I’m doing about where my adventures may take me next.

Going back to work after retirement isn’t for everyone, but it has served me well. I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world around me – and I’m inspired in a way I never was when I was younger.

If you could go back to work, what do you imagine yourself doing? What would your new life look like if you did “un-retire”? Let’s engage in a conversation!

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