Returning to working full-time … PANIC!

I’ve had most of the summer off in an attempt to use up the vacation days that I’ve accrued and, because of the nature of my work, just haven’t had time to use until now.  In July I worked basically half time, and for August – other than one day that I needed to be at a meeting – I’ve had time to do a “dry run” of retirement.  Now that’s drawing to a close and I am in a real muddle.  Just a few days ago I sent my sister an e-mail bemoaning my return to work:  “I have to at least get the course syllabus done and my office at home organized before I go back next week.  I’m totally overwhelmed with stress at the thought of having to be up by 6, out by 7:15, home by 7:00 p.m., dinner done by 8:30, and from that point it’s a struggle to just stay awake.   That’s been my routine for years now, so why today’s panic?  I’ve had a taste of being without that kind of stress for most of the past two months and I’ve started to get used to a different rhythm that seems to be a better fit with my 59 year-old body.  Suddenly, having a couple of deadlines in front of me makes me feel downright panicky.  Weird huh?”

Every time I look around I see all the evidence that I haven’t followed through on my summer plans.  I did manage to get the syllabus revised and posted; that’s one thing done.  Getting myself more organized at home is another story altogether.  There are a pile of old text books sitting on the couch waiting to be given away.  Little piles of things here and there waiting to be filed or put away somewhere they’ll be easily retrieved when needed again.  Countless articles waiting to be read.  Books waiting to be read.  My garden’s in good shape at least, but other than that I feel like most of the summer’s gone and very little was accomplished.  Is this a harbinger of how little I’ll be able to accomplish when I actually do retire? 

One more day.  Only one more time to wake up without having to hurry anywhere.  One more opportunity to “seize the day” and let it take me where it will.  One more day of moving more slowly, really taking the time to – as they say – smell the coffee.  One more.  Only one.  And then – tomorrow – it’s back to the rush and bustle and excitement of a busy professional life and a personal life that has to work itself around the work demands.  

I feel like I’ve put on a new skin this summer; one that’s much easier to wear.  Now I have to put on business clothes and sit in meetings and prepare notes and strategic plans.  My goodness; all summer there’s been nothing strategic in my planning at all – which may, of course, be why so little was accomplished.   Everything I was worrying about when I wrote “Don’t Leave the Building Until You’re Done” is swirling around me; how will I get back into the rhythm and energy of work again after this hiatus into freedom?  It’s going to be an interesting two months for sure; projects to try to draw to either a close or at least to a place where I’m comfortable passing them along, last opportunities to have influence on things under development, and last annual cycle experiences to have while still an employee.  The challenge of working through these last two months is a little bit daunting to say the least.

I wonder how many people retire and then, for one reason or another, find that they need to return to working full-time at least for a while.  I wonder how they manage the transitions – in both directions. 

If you’ve got any advice at all, please share it.  If you’ve moved from work to retirement and back again, please tell me how you managed the emotional and physical shifts. 

Meanwhile, I’ll try to relax into this return to work (for 47 days) and will use the advice you’ve shared so far to get me from here to October 31st.  I’ll continue posting twice a week and look forward to your comments and thoughts.  As I’ve said from the start; women working together is the best!!


6 responses to “Returning to working full-time … PANIC!

  1. Oh horrors! I can certainly understand your sense of panic at having an imposed schedule again. Unfortunately, I don’t have much by way of advice other than to cheer you on in the final two months of THAT part of your life.

    I wasn’t able to disengage before I retired as I was the lead analyst on a staff with several new and inexperienced folks. But I can say, that the closer my date came, the less patience I had for the nonsense I saw around me. It made me wonder how I’d put up with it for 34 years. I still wonder about that 14 months into retirement. You may feel the same way, especially since you’ve had so much freedom during the summer.

    Hang tight and good luck!

  2. Sylvia Bereskin

    Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. I spent a wonderful day out by a lake today with my youngest son, just enjoying the warmth and sense of freedom. Since I’ve always struggling with lack of patience for the nonsense around me I’m guessing that you’re right and that this will become even more acute in the two months ahead. Hope you’ll keep offering encouragement; I might need it!!

  3. It’s always easier to transition from working FT to not working FT than the other way around, getting back to the stressful schedule is a rude shock. So take comfort in knowing it’s not too much longer.

    But you have a lot of company in the issues you face in wanting to have some structure & meaningful things to do, just in a more relaxed way. I think we’re the first generation in that position, so we’ll have to be the pathfinders. I think (hope) the corporate world will respond to that. I just thought of this, but years ago there was a skit on the Monty Python show, they had these gangs of old ladies running around mugging young toughs. Very funny! (If somewhat off-topic. But still, they’ll need to give us something to do!)

  4. Sylvia Bereskin

    Once again, thank you so much for your support Rita. As the day wears down and it’s almost time to go to sleep, the thought of the alarm going off tomorrow and dashing off to a long day of work almost strikes terror to my heart. Can I do it? Where will that kind of energy come from again? It’s not that I’ve not been busy all summer, but it’s been a taste of retirement – the easy, gentle, one-thing-at-a-time kind of busy. Now I’m back to multi-tasking and I’m not looking forward to it (mostly … will be fun to finish up a few things before I leave though).

  5. Good luck with your last 2 months. I found the last 2 months before retirement incredibly hard. But it will end in 2 months, you got that going for you!

    As to accomplishing not as much as you wanted to in your mini-retirement: I’ve been retired for 6 months now and here’s a little secret: IT DOESN’T MATTER! Just do what you have the inclination to do and it wall all get done (eventually.) You are soon going to be the boss of you, so be a nice one!

  6. While I have many more years to go before entering a formal retirement phase (and even then I think the concept will mean something different) I had a small taste of retirement last summer taking three months off when moving from one work gig to the next. My findings from my work hiatus: 1. time flies, no matter what. I think we self-perpetuate the rate we move through the day. It’s attitudinal rather than a nasty microsoft outlook calendar thing. 2. piles of juicy things to read don’t go away. in fact they can get even bigger because it seemed my expectations of what i could do vs. actually do in a day became even less aligned with reality. 3. as a “planner” i returned very quickly to building an itinerary of things to do. tried the go-with-the-moment idea and that collapsed after my first afternoon nap. 4. on this planning note, my thoughts often returned to travelling and things i wanted to see and do — in large part this was the motivating factor from turning what could have been a four month break to a three month one — generating the income for another extended travelling holiday. Slyvia, for my need for vicarious travelling, I look forward to hearing more about the places you want to see and shape during retirement. Blog on 🙂

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