Over the weekend, my friend Sarah Myers posted The Noontimes blog about re-visitation, transitional times of change in our lives when we reinvestigate our identities and actions. In my youth, I thought that a traditional life script was a three-act play (childhood and education in Act I, work and family in Act II, followed by a vague Act III) with two, orderly transitions (commencement and retirement) between the acts. Today, people often experience a series of re-visitations, not so much retirements but transitions into new careers. For some, however, transition has a dark side.
In a recent article about life after football, former NFL player Shawn Jefferson shared his thoughts about retirement. “It’s not the depression that kills you… It’s trying to make that transition to real life without that support group you’ve had in place your whole career… The depression comes about because you don’t have that structure anymore.” Similar to the alienation that combat soldiers sometimes feel when returning to civilian life, football players lose a bond of brotherhood when they retire. A solution, Jefferson said, is to keep retired players around the game, make them feel welcome and give them a lifetime membership card so they can “…smell the game, get on the grass, be around the guys.” Continued involvement helped Shawn Jefferson, now a coach, but another possibility might be openness to an entirely new mission, new learning and lessons.
A longtime, dear friend of mine retired a few weeks ago; and this week, I attend a retirement party honoring Ellen Cullen, the head librarian for 36 years at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson, Maryland. I don’t know what opportunities retirement will bring to my friend or my former colleague, or what choices they will make. But, given my experience of a sabbatical that turned into a writing career, I recommend openness to re-investigation and transitions that embrace the common sense words of Sarah Myers’ wise father: You never know what you can do until you do it.
Who are you and what are you doing?