The guilt of leaving it all behind

You hear about your friends and family doing it, and you eagerly await it from your mid-40s onwards. The promise of relaxation, complete control, and security.

Well, that day came for me, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. My husband is 5 years old than me and when I turned 60, he nudged me towards retirement, saying that now was the time to move on from my workplace of 20 years.

I was a combination of excited and scared – what would retirement hold for me? How would I fill my time? Would I be bored? I put all those thoughts aside as I was feeling more excited once we had spoken to financial advisors and organised everything.

I had been a nurse since my 20s, and I loved it. The hospital I worked in was filled with wonderful, dedicated doctors and nurses, and I cared very much for everyone. Some of my best friends were there and I looked forward to every day.

The day came to had in my resignation. At 61, I still felt younger than I was, and my superior expressed shock that I was leaving – in both of our minds I think we imagined I’d stay on as a nurse forever. I was determined to give my retirement a go, and as the farewells rolled in, I was filled with sadness. I didn’t really want to go but felt like everyone else around me was doing it at my age… it was like a rite of passage.

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My final day again had me feeling excited and scared. We’d had a cruise planned to celebrate two days later, but in hindsight it was almost as if it was just there to make me avoid the harsh reality of retiring.

When I closed the door for the last time, I thought it was the start of a new beginning, but little did I know how much I was going to miss that time of my life. After the cruise, I felt beside myself. I had such guilt for leaving the workplace – it didn’t feel right.

I realised that even with all our finances sorted, that still didn’t give me daily purpose – my former purpose was to care for people. Now, I had no idea what I was going to do. I read a report that we’re living much longer than expected and it dawned on me that I have 20+ years to fill! And with what?!

After several months of feel lost and sorry for myself, I received a flyer in my letterbox about a seniors community group. I went along to a meeting and now I attend weekly meet ups and have made great friends. I also volunteer at my local second-hand store at the Church, and play table tennis twice a week. My schedule is busier than ever. And to think, only a few months ago I thought I’d lost my friends, my livelihood and my purpose.

I hope that anyone reading this who has retired and is feeling bored or even useless like I was … just reach out to your community. Give your time to someone who needs it. You never know, you could find what you were missing.


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