New Year, New Me?  Not Really!

by Pamela Kearney

I’ve come to the realization that my status within retirement is a bigger issue to others than to me.  Prior to and after the actual retirement transition, conversations have consistently contained inquiries about “living . . . after work.”
“So, Pam, what are you going to be doing in retirement?”  Or, “We can’t imagine you stopping; what will you be doing in retirement?” All of these inquiries were showered in full view of hundreds of moving boxes in various stages of packing and unpacking.
I was probably the one more aware of the close-ended question. It seemed as if my job and its various activities were the ingredients that defined me in other people’s eyes. Quite honestly, the retirement process wasn’t as stressful as the need to define what I was going to be doing “after work.”
Like many others, my husband and I had read many retirement manuals on “how to” and “pitfalls to avoid in retirement.”   We even delved into Don’t Retire, Rewire! (Sedlar & Miners, 2003).
Three months into the new chapter of my life, I strongly believe that the ingredients that defined me in the past are the tools that will assist me in the journey ahead.  Those tools are not the previous job or its related activities, but the skills that are inherent and helped me to be an effective leader.
I have found that my ability to relate to people, bring them together, facilitate dialogue, and quickly solve problems has made our well planned transition much more smooth.  We have already connected to others, while at the same time cherishing and keeping alive the relationships among past colleagues. 
Most importantly, I’m comfortable with what gifts and skills I bring to any new adventure to which I am invited or choose to participate.   This may seem basic; but read any retirement survey . . . those who are happiest “living . . . after work,” seemed to have embraced their self identity.  They embrace the new opportunities that come their way.

The Bottom Line: Even though I have retired, WHO I am hasn't changed.  My employment status, geographic location, and contact information have, but my skills, interests, values and style haven't.  I am still the same person, and will be bringing this same self to my next adventure.

Pamela C. Kearney has spent 30 plus years in development, fundraising and organizational leadership.  Her most recent service was president of a healthcare foundation in the midwest.  Pamela can be reached at

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