Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Retirement:Five Years After

There are no directional signs in retirement.

My life has changed a lot since I retired 5 years ago this June. At 59 years of age, I was younger
looking, I had both parents, I felt fulfilled and appreciated in my work. But, there was so much that
I wanted to do.

I started working as a strawberry picker when I was 10 years old. I graduated to baby-sitting my 4 cousins (all under 6 years old ) when I was 13. My subsequent jobs included flyer deliverer, waitress, telephone solicitor, file clerk, child minder, tutor, library assistant and teacher-librarian. As a single parent, sometimes I had 3 jobs and I studied for my teacher-librarian diploma. For almost 50 years, I worked.

Wherever I go, I can walk.
When I retired, accomplishment was still a priority. I attended the Sorbonne (my girlhood dream) and
I worked very hard at my courses. I was paying for this and I wanted to excel! When I returned home, I planned new adventures, tried to write my blog at least 3 times a week, wrote a children's book (still unpublished) and joined my local church. I attended Sunday School as a child but I have never been
a church-goer in my adult life.

Accomplishment, achievement, aspiration....I didn't attend church but I did accept the old Protestant work ethic! I wonder why it's called that because I know several people who were raised as Catholics who subscribe to the same set of beliefs. When is it time to set aside the quest for the "A's" and to live life without striving?

For me, it is really difficult to let go. If I get  in the right number of walks, create the perfect grey/navy travel wardrobe,  maintain a fresh and clean apartment, write a certain number of pages during the week, eat the correct number of calories, work a magic number of volunteer hours....I am still looking for the perfect score...a quantitative measure of the success of my life. I still want to be on the "Honour Roll"

Is there an "Honour Roll" for retirees? Do we measure our success by "busyness", by the number of grandchildren,  by our domestic accomplishments? I really don't know. For each of us, some of the aspects of our lives work better than others.  This month, I have embarked on volunteer opportunities, been offered a census job (said "no"), and registered for some courses at the Alliance Française and
Continuing Education at our local university. I get a a happy, fulfilled feeling from the student/teacher
part of my life.

the Oaxaca Learning Centre garden

The first five years of retirement have passed quickly. I am midway into my 65th year. I plan to visit
Ireland and Shetland in September. Monsieur and I have rented an apartment in Mexico where we will spend Christmas with some members of his family (a rare occurrence). I aspire (there's one of the "a" words) to get more exercise, drink less wine and write more blogs in the next few months.  I am interested in how other "strivers" have found fulfillment after retirement. Is "letting go" an issue for you?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Time Well Spent

My new volunteer position started at an exhibit at The Chinese Bunkhouse.

Last week, I wrote about the difficulty of navigating the volunteer recruitment software system in my community. I have been looking for opportunities to use my experience and education in retirement.
When I am in Oaxaca, opportunities abound. Teaching, tutoring English, assisting at an orphanage,
library work...it's all available. There is no tracking or criminal record checks or volunteer interviews. All that is needed is a willingness to help.

Last Saturday, I went to a volunteer orientation at the heritage shipyard museum. All of the other volunteers were students. Sunday, I had my criminal record check. It's odd to me. Years ago, I was on the board of the Information and Volunteer Society and I wrote the newspaper adds to recruit volunteers. More years ago than that, I worked for the Crime Index Section of the RCMP, doing none other than criminal record checks on a Cardveyor Index Machine (sort of like a giant Rolodex). I have been an educational professional for 30 years. As a retiree, I felt like I was suddenly worthless.
The volunteer position that I was applying for is open to 15 year olds. What does that say for my last 50 years?
Working conditions would have been very cold and damp.

Friday, I started as a Heritage Guide and Greeter. I have visited the site many times before and I had reviewed all of the material in the volunteer handbook. I was uncertain how many visitors I would greet as it was a weekday. I was given a 2-way radio and placed in the Chinese Bunkhouse building.
I had taught about the coming of the Chinese to the gold rush and to work on the Canadian railway.
Unfortunately, the indentured workers could not pay back their fare and the head tax charged by the Canadian government. They had no choice but to stay in Canada and comprised the largest group of
cannery workers on the coast of British Columbia.

The beds were barely 5 feet long. Seventy-five men slept here.

I was surprised by the number of visitors to the site. I enjoy meeting travellers and found the exhibits
fascinating. I have walked by the Heritage Shipyard many times but the major exhibits are only open when there is a volunteer guide available. I look forward to leading visitors throughout the site during the summer.  It seems that my initial difficulties with technology have paid off and I am on my way to a successful volunteer experience.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Older Adult Volunteers

shipyard museum
Travel has played a large part in the first five years of my retirement. My desire for learning was fulfilled by my studies at the Sorbonne and I was very happy working amidst the books at the Oaxaca Lending Library.  Now, for the sake of my marriage, my puppy, and my finances, I need to spend more time at home.

For me, daily social interaction is essential. For 25 years, I worked in school libraries where hundreds
of students, teachers and parents visited daily. Before that, I worked in a small and friendly public library. As a stay-at-home mum, I enjoyed playgroups and shared activities with other young families.

Currently, I have volunteered to sort donated bakery products and to count money at the church. Unfortunately, these are mainly solitary endeavours that provide me with  little satisfaction.  I
am looking for skill-based volunteer opportunities. I have teaching, library and writing experience.
I am friendly, fluent in English and French, and computer-literate.I am able to learn new skills but I can be quite slow and awkward with manual tasks. I enjoy working with other people who are similar in interests and age. The problem seems to be that I am 64 years old and have been retired for almost 5 years.

Last week, I  completed online applications for volunteer positions in Vancouver and in Richmond, the suburb where I live. It seems to me that society has placed many obstacles in the paths of would-be volunteers. Various volunteer management software systems have required me to create
accounts with user names and passwords. I worked with computers in the library and supervised computer relief classes at school but for an older adult, the technology could be off-putting.

It seems to me that certain volunteer positions should be aimed at elders with a lifetime of skills and experience. Personally, I feel reluctant to apply for a position for which the minimum age is 14. There are programmes which feature multi-generational volunteer opportunities but as a former teacher, I really want to work with adults now.

Partial success! I have been accepted to lead a book club for older adults at a community centre and to be a guide at our local heritage shipyard museum. I am well-qualified for these two positions as I worked in libraries for 30 years and researched and wrote a children's book (still unpublished) about a local shipbuilding family.

Saturday, I attended an orientation at the shipyard. The average age of the volunteers was about 50 years younger than I am! Nevertheless, I took my criminal record forms into the RCMP detachment
office and was set to register for some volunteer shifts this morning. Guess what! I can't log in.