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Gretchen D. – Finding My Way

When retirement isn’t retiring to a rocking chair, what do you do?”

Defining My Challenge

What should the next chapter look like?  I’m 5 years from retiring, but I’m not ready to sit in a rocker.  I knew I had something more to give, but I couldn’t get traction on any ideas.  I’m interested in addressing some of the challenges in my community, but how do I translate volunteer work into something more?

In February 2021 a friend told me about a virtual workshop she had taken called “Designing Your Life”, which she thought would be helpful.  I clicked on the link she sent me and immediately registered for the April session facilitated by Fieldbrook Advising.

The DYL Digital Journey Got Me into Action

The workshop did not disappoint.  Over three weeks with an additional bonus session, we worked through exercises as a group, completed valuable homework assignments in between sessions, and shared our thoughts and insights in small group sessions.   For me, the most difficult and the most effective exercise was to design three separate lives, or Odyssey Plans, that I would be interested in pursuing.  And not just from a work perspective.  We were asked to think about relationships, health and play, too.  I was stuck.  I can’t figure out one life, how am I supposed to figure out three?  Bit by bit they came together.  I looked at my reflections on the purpose of work and what gives life meaning.  I reviewed my personal dashboard of satisfaction with work, relationships, health, and play.  I let myself think outside the box.  I came up with three Odyssey Plans, which I called A Better Now, Act 2, and Having It All.

Choosing A Path and Prototyping Next Steps

In the last class, the facilitators helped us evaluate our three Odyssey Plans.  We looked at our individual decision-making processes and how to check in with our intuition.  The most powerful element of the discernment process, however, was Ruth Chang’s TEDTalk on how to make hard choices.  She urged us to put “our agency behind the choice” and made it clear that the choices you make become part of your active construction of who you are.

So, I chose Act 2.  I have a five-year plan to make the transition from being a civil servant to a retiree working full-time in my community to address food insecurity.  There are major activities along the way, starting with informational interviews.  The future may not end up looking exactly as I pictured it in my Odyssey, but I have a goal, I have a plan, and I’m taking action.

Gretchen D. lives in Northern Virginia and works for the Federal Government.  She can’t remember what she did for fun before the pandemic, but she looks forward to rediscovering the world.