Looking Back on It, the Best Retirement Advise I Received

WHO WE ARE NOW
August 1, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
Margaret enjoying her “fave new retirement hobby, hiking for waterfalls”
Margaret enjoying her “fave new retirement hobby, hiking for waterfalls”

...by Margaret Larson

The word retirement means a lot of different things to different people. If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll find this: ‘withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.’ I suppose that’s technically true, but I reject the idea of ‘withdrawing.’ What is this time of life? To me, it’s a new chapter that I hope to enjoy in the same way I enjoyed graduating from college, entering a career, getting married, becoming a mother. Each stage offered its own adventures and challenges, and this one is no different.


COVID changed retirement for many. Lots of us moved closer to children and grandchildren. Some left careers a bit earlier than expected or, instead, found working from home (if available) refreshing. Too many people see retirement out of reach financially. Others have taken on new caretaking responsibilities, or struggle to maintain good health. I have friends who ‘unretired’ due to financial strain or boredom. This new chapter can be fraught.



Margaret Larson

 

I think back on what turned out to be the three best pieces of advice I received on the topic. One friend, a retired attorney whose job entailed tons of responsibility and travel, warned me against decelerating too quickly. She said retirement was a bit like an offramp. You want to slow down, but not all at once. Once you’ve safely made the turn, you’re free to rev back up if you choose. Her advice was to immediately establish three appointments each week that I couldn’t skip—volunteering for a specific shift, working out with a friend or coach, mentoring broadcast students. These commitments gave a scaffolding to my time that got me engaged and allowed me start building a new kind of ‘schedule.’ It was a practical step that really worked for me.



A very smart retired network television producer suggested that I make a list of all the things I’d most loved about my career life (purpose, constant learning, relationships) and the things that weren’t always great (wearing makeup, fussing with appearance). Decades of dressing and getting made up for a TV job had left me with no real idea of what I even wanted to wear. It turns out that I now mostly look and dress like a hike might break out any time. Who knew? But all the best stuff can be duplicated in other ways. It’s a great time to take courses that I never had time to take before (history), to try to learn a new language (Italian), and to explore more—from the mountains to the beach, from the city to the country roads (the dog loves it). I still find myself ‘interviewing’ new people, but folks like being asked questions so it’s all good.



Maybe the most valuable piece of advice came from a wise friend who is also a mental health professional. He told me that when it gets confusing, come back to your core strengths. Don’t worry about a career ‘ending,’ just turn your face to the sun, take stock of what you do well and all the life lessons that are now embedded, and lean into the thrill of independence and opportunity. Leap to find the positives, he said, and savor life. Remember who you wanted to be when you were little. Offer grace to others, and to yourself. Lead with curiosity, not judgment. He was inviting me to a higher view of life and my role as the architect of my own future. It kind of blew my mind. As a result, I’ve even learned to meditate, to quiet myself and find a tranquility that eluded my younger self.



So, what is retirement? Ultimately, I think it’s our time.



Margaret Larson retired last year as host of KING‘s New Day Northwest. Her impressive 35-year career included stints as a London-based foreign correspondent for NBC News and as a news anchor for the Today show, as well as a reporter for Dateline NBC and anchor at KING 5.

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