Three years ago, I was at a point in my life that many of my colleagues have been at before--I was retired and pondering my options for the future. Do I sit back and draw my pension, enjoying the fruits of the many years of shift work, long hours, and temporary duty assignments both in the country and out? Or, do I look around for another job, not just to earn some additional money, but to give me an objective to reach each day; a reason to get out of bed before 11 o'clock in the morning, take a shower, put on different clothes, etc.? You get the picture. Many of us need direction, structure, a template to follow. That's what we have been doing all of our professional lives, to do otherwise is anathema to all that we believe in.
For a while, I tried the retirement thing. Get up whenever, have coffee, read the paper, check the e-mail, and get in a workout sometime during the day. It worked for about three weeks. After that, I was itching to get going. I wasn't quite sure what I was planning on doing, but I knew one thing--at 55 years of age, I was too young to be fully retired. I needed something to focus on each day, something with meaning. I had heard the talk before from my buddies that had already retired. They told me, "Just try to accomplish one task each day, simple things like mowing the lawn, or getting a battery for your watch." Well, those are the things that I had always done while also fully immersed in my career. Trying to have mundane chores consume the whole day was incomprehensible.
Having been a law enforcement trainer for the last 15 years, I had developed a routine that caused me to rise early each day. Just like the commercial for the Army says, "We get more done before breakfast than most people do in a day," I had been up running and working out, and preparing lesson plans before that first cup of coffee each day. To have that custom abruptly end was a life-changing event that I felt was not necessarily for the better. I wanted to be able to continue to take satisfaction in accomplishing objectives that had substance, not just completed chores.
One thing that I did recognize immediately was that I somehow felt different. I couldn't discern at once what this "different feeling" was, but after several days into retirement I finally figured it out---the "stress" was gone. I had no deadlines to meet, no tests to administer and worry whether my students would pass or fail. I had no supervisors giving ridiculous marching orders, no inspections to prepare for. All of the things that had previously caused my anxiety to rise were now a thing of the past. I felt a sense of liberation. Paradoxically, I also felt a sense of loss. I looked to those stressors as a challenge that I would work around and through, while still accomplishing my objectives each day. We know that stress has different effects on people; some folks suffer an adverse effect, while others thrive. I was in the latter group. Any stress made me stronger, caused me to analyze how I could succeed in spite of it.
So now that I had determined that I wasn't quite ready for being fully retired, the question became "what to do about it." Having invested years of hard work that included physical training, instructor courses, certifications, research, and written testing, it seemed the logical answer was to continue down that same road. Why re-invent the wheel? I had been a successful trainer with one of the best law enforcement agencies in the world; why not put that experience to good use?
Although I didn't want to assume all the duties and headaches that I had in my career, I still wanted to remain in that genre. I enjoyed training people, and it was something that I was good at. The next step was researching how to put my talents to work, how to match myself with a company, police department, or agency where I could continue to get paid for things I enjoyed doing.