Retirement, Reinventing, Redesigning? All of the Above!
by Donna L. Scrafano
As a young professional and a single mom, the answer I gave when asked about retirement was, “I’ll be dropping dead at a desk somewhere because I’ll never be able to retire.” A bleak answer, for sure. As the fates would have it, I took an early, unplanned semi-retirement to take care of my elderly father one month before my 62nd birthday.
I retired from a full-time job administering agencies and programs for non-profits, where the tasks involved would turn a 40-hour work week into a 60-hour work week more times than not. But I wasn’t ready to “retire” from work life completely. So I looked for contract work and eventually found myself working on a consistent part-time basis. But this didn’t last. Hours were added on beyond to the original hours I had agreed upon. In addition, my father’s demands on my time and energy grew more insistent. So eventually, my last day of being employed by anyone or anything other than myself – actually happened.
So now I’m really “retired.” I’ve decided that retirement means “free from the rat race.” No more having to show up at a designated time and for designated hours, no more trying to depend on another person to complete your own tasks (I thought this wouldn’t happen with contract work, since I was no longer in management, not so), no more being part of a business culture where work ethics diminish right before your eyes. No more, no more! Enough! Certainly a better view of retirement than I had as a young woman.
Now, the reinventing, redesigning takes place. What exactly do I want to be when I grow up, again? The answer is: I want to be “me.” I want to be able to discover more about “me.” I want to take care of “me.” I want to have a better relationship with “my” higher power.
For many years I, like many other women, have been taking care of others: our families, our friends, our pets, and, in my case, my clients. Although the caregiving for my father continues, I now have time to discover things about myself that are just below the surface and underdeveloped—a process that not everyone is comfortable with. Fear is generally the feeling that deters us from progressing. Being out of our comfort zone can be quite unnerving. I have always advised others to “do it fearfully,” meaning acknowledge the fear but don’t let it stop you. Therefore, I’m now taking my own advice. Although I have never viewed myself as a risk taker, it seems I’ve taken quite a few professional risks over my career. In doing so, I was able to discover new strengths and develop existing strengths to meet the challenge. And rest assured, I did it fearfully.
What does the future hold when one retires? I don’t know. But what I do know is that, in order to reinvent and redevelop myself, I need to forge ahead in getting to know myself better, do the things that I enjoy, find enjoyment possibly in something that I didn’t know I had an interest in, push myself out of my comfort zone until it feels safe, do it fearfully until the fearfulness loosens its grip, and most of all, what a beloved graduate school professor once told me, “Trust the process, Donna. Just trust the process.”
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna’s relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her six grandchildren, writing, spending time with friends, and applying self-care. Her current full-time position is care-taking her 90-year-old father.