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Retirement, Re-purpose…Definitely Rejuvenate and Relax (just a little)!

by: Gwyn Tracy, President, CAPED

Images of retirement and what to expect vary, but not so much. After interviewing numerous people from various jobs who were retired (before I made the big decision) I found most people took up travel, spending time with grandchildren, and volun­teering.

Hearing and seeing the fresh faces of retired friends, they were happy to share the initial unexpected adjustment challenges… such as the lack of routine, the re-definition of their purpose, the new ways of feeling productive. Some stayed in close contact with work relationships and students, and some chose to never return to the place where they had worked. Some returned to work on their own terms (the proverbial “rent a dean” and consulting and even taking on new jobs). Although nobody I inter­viewed complained of boredom, I have heard rumors that there are people out there who are bored once they retire. I have also heard rumors of people who grumble of loneliness when their work environment was their main social interaction. I can’t say I heard either of these concerns from retired DSPS pros.

I believe that I could make some generalities on DSPS folks who retire:

  1. These dedicated professionals so loved their work that they find a way to stay connected to DSPS…be it as a consultant, an interim Dean or director, or an adjunct DSPS counselor (or remaining involved in CAPED).
  2. DSPS professionals, once retired find new purpose in their lives, and many remain connected to former DSPS students. They never sound bored or lonely to me.
  3. DSPS professionals seem to find new adventure in travel and take on activities and directions that were out of reach due to being very busy with DSPS.

I would even garner to generalize that dedicated DSPS people are unique in their personalities with common characteristics. How else do you explain our love of dramatic students, our embracing of constant change and challenges, our love of working overtime, and our passion for social justice? Truly, what other job offers all those qualities in one place? Sure, the police have their drama…but where are the rewards of successful outcomes with the very challenged people they have to arrest? And we know lots of people work overtime in their jobs, but do those overtime hours end up with watching a student graduate and crossing the stage for their diploma? Lots of jobs are about social justice through non-profits, but where is the substantial feed­back as a student comes into your office to share an A, or transfers to a university? And as for constant challenges, ER has that I am sure, but where else do you get the full picture and can link the dots of student, to services, to budget, to success?

With all that said, one might ask why we ever retire? I really think the answer is in our human need for rejuvenation (beyond a long vacation or sabbatical) and the importance of re-vitalizing ourselves. Maybe we reach a point where we want the change without the challenge, the student success without the drama, the work without overtime, and the social justice passion in alternate formats.

Whatever our reasons for retirement, I know DSPS pros love their retired lives (which seem to include re-purpose, rejuvenation and relaxation), and I hope as they retire, they will continue on with CAPED in some form…being rewarded by seeing student success and hearing student stories without having to address budgets, services, or drama.