Having an Emotional Retirement? Join the Club.


If retirement is throwing you for a loop, you’re definitely not alone.

Coleman Barks, a poet and translator, writes this about his last day of teaching at the University of Georgia:

“I missed giving my final final exam. I slept through it. The alarm didn’t sound, or I turned it off in my sleep. I’m buying a new clock. But maybe it’s perfect this way. They wrote me such letters. I’ll give them all A’s. But that moment will not come back, no matter how I call, howl for it to, weep.”

And on he goes, lamenting this stark, anticlimactic end to a 30-year career.

No doubt, retirement can feel upending, even surreal. The emotional exhaustion that commonly occurs may explain why Barks overslept that day—and made him wonder, “Do you reckon I’ll sleep through my death[?]”

As you transition into retirement, details that may not seem important at the time can go unattended. Health insurance, for example. The dental and vision coverage you may have enjoyed through a full-time employer are typically not included with Medicare, along with various other services.

A full-blown retirement meltdown, complete with howling and weeping, can strike when you least expect it, so make a note now to ask a knowledgeable AMBA agent about supplemental health coverage endorsed by your association. And heed this parting advice from Barks:

“Look at me and be frightened of not pouring the last of the love and wakefulness you’re given, which is every moment, but more so some than others. Emptying out is the point. In time, over time, be early.”

SOURCE: “The Final Final”, from Tentmaking by Coleman Barks (Maypop, 2001)

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