Remember when you were a child and the first day of school loomed large at the end of the summer? It’s that time again, and I reminisce, with my own personal memories, those of my 3 children, and now, the impressions of my daughter’s first day of school as a fifth-grade teacher. Although the return nowadays isn’t the crisp autumn air I experienced as a kid in Windsor, Connecticut, after Labor Day and with a full glorious summer behind me, it is still the transition that is a universal experience– as a student, teacher or parent, practiced every single school year, up to and including college. There are the physical preparations: getting school supplies, anticipating clothing needs, and what kind of provisions will be required for the first days and weeks, like lunches, snacks, and extra notebooks or gym uniforms. Then there are the logistics– which bus to take or carpool, or if you are a teacher, how to leave to avoid the traffic but get to school with plenty of time to decompress and organize before the first child walks through the door and the day begins! A fair amount of adjustment or adaptation is required, whether you are a kindergarten student, a senior in high school, or a veteran educator, to make the new year seem doable–routines, habits, and procedures are set up to automate or put on “autopilot” those things which can be delegated to the everyday events. Then there are the contingencies–what to do if the glitch happens– the bus doesn’t come, you forgot your lunch, your locker won’t open, or you’ve missed receiving or giving an essential tool to survive the first semester successfully! Do you remember the underlying stress and basic uncertainty in those first weeks of transition?
A very universal and highly reliable experience, for anyone who attended a school environment each year! What were some coping mechanisms from those many years of adaptation that can be applied to other significant transitions in life? The first is PERSPECTIVE– this has been done before, by many people and will continue to be done in the indefinite, foreseeable future! Just as there is an uncertain edge and nervousness about facing the first day of school– What will I be tasked to do? How will I fit in with the crowd of people on the same path? What can I do to make this transition a bit more enjoyable, and a little bit easier for me? –there are the same concerns in the uncertainty in facing a retirement transition. Another coping mechanism is REASSURING SELF CONFIDENCE, looking back from where you have come . If there is any doubt about future success in adapting to what lies ahead, refer to the past. Give yourself full credit for what has already been accomplished and know you have the same fundamental tools and talents for the future. I used this approach for my children, who after a long summer off would feel skittish about skills acquired then softened with no use over the summer break. Even reading about topics related to transition seems to boost one’s self confidence regarding success in the next chapter of life.
As an individual experience, it is regardless of the amount of perspective or self confidence one has as to how one adapts to any transition in life, much less the larger transition to retirement. What is certain is that the more thought, PREPARATION, and education applied and sought before the actual event, the more content, and daresay, happier one is in their retirement transition. How many have passed this milestone and how many more will follow in your footsteps on this path? As difficult or unpredictable the transition might be, it will still be what it always has been–and individual journey founded in the preparation for what lies ahead.