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Recently I heard a radio host, inquiring if a guest would retire soon, ask, “Do I see a hammock in your future?” That reminded me of Grace Coddington, who when stepping down as Creative Director at Vogue, said she was “definitely not retiring” because she didn’t want “to sit around.”

Really? Hammocks? Sitting around? That’s their vision of retirement?

I retired five years ago after 30 years of teaching high school. I loved my job… but teaching is stressful. The planning, prepping, researching, endless meetings, constant professional development, not to mention the hours and hours of marking papers, can expand to fill all the hours of your life. That’s if you do the job right.

So when I was eligible to retire, I thought long and hard about what to do. I still had tons of energy for the classroom, but I was finding I no longer had energy or enthusiasm for the bureaucracy or the endless and not always sensible change.

So… I made a sensible change for myself and retired, but I certainly did not plan to sit around. In or out of a hammock.

Sitting around is not my definition of retirement, nor does it define the lives of my retired friends.

According to a 2015 article in the Montreal Gazette, sitting around is exactly what most retired people do NOT do. Dorothea Bye, an expert on aging, says contemporary retirement takes many forms. She describes retirees fashioning all manner of combinations of work and non-work and says the idea of retiring to a rocking chair (or a hammock) is outdated.

“Retirement is not resignation, it’s regeneration.”


A few months before I retired, Hubby and I were sipping wine, waiting for supper to cook, and talking about my impending retirement. I was grieving the fact that my career, something so integral to my identity, was winding down. Who would I be when I wasn’t a teacher? I remember saying, “I can’t believe it’s the end.” And Hubby replied, “Why not look at it as a beginning, instead of an ending?”

And just like that, my perspective changed. That doesn’t mean my anxiety disappeared, or that tears were not shed when I walked away from the classroom, or that I didn’t struggle to find my path. It does mean I started looking ahead, not back.

And it’s the looking ahead that is key: Finding new ways to explore our passions, new ways to use those good skills we developed during a long and fulfilling work life.

My accountant friend is now an accomplished watercolor artist. My languages teacher friend volunteers at a refugee center. With her ability to speak English, French and Arabic, she’s their dream volunteer.


And me? Well Hubby and I are traveling, and after many years of teaching literature and writing, I am exploring the blogging world and finding an outlet for my creativity and crazy ideas… with a supportive audience, no bureaucracy, no marking of papers.

And no hammocks in sight.

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Sue Burpee lives in Ottawa, Canada, but she grew up on the east coast. After teaching high school Creative Writing for 30 years, she decided to put her money where her mouth is, take her own advice, and just start writing. Her blog High Heels in the Wilderness is the result. Sue says she is equal parts girly-girl and tomboy. Fifty percent fashion and 50 percent fishing, so to speak. She and her husband love to travel, ski, canoe, camp and fish together. They also love to spend time in the kitchen together, where Sue is definitely second in command. Sue loves to wardrobe plan and shop, but she does this on her own. Hubby is not invited. Her blog chronicles her travel and style adventures, what she is reading, plus a few stories about growing up down east.

6 thoughts on “NO HAMMOCKS IN SIGHT”

  1. Bravo to you!
    They say there are three stages of retirement: the go-go years, the go-slow years, and the no-go years. How long you spend in each depends on your health and financial situation.
    When I was in the Peace Corps, there were several fellow volunteers who were retired. I always figured I would do the same–in every developing country, older people are revered, plus I looked forward to having the wisdom to deal with complicated situations (of course, those situations earned me wisdom, but were tough at the time).
    PS: I love your photos!

    • Everyone finds their path in retirement, I guess. Mu husband and I both retired in our late fifties, although since he’s ten years older than me, I continued to work a decade after he retired. But i took a couple of long term leaves during that time so we could travel. Plus…he took over most of the cooking and all of the grocery shopping. That was wonderful.

  2. My 20’s-50’s were filled with adventure travel, racing cars and always danger. Now I realize I can’t continue my adrenaline fueled life, so I’ve been to Europe twice and lots of short trips within the US, plus I work on 1010ParkPlace every day and have two puppies. Perhaps a new fella’ will come along and open some new doors for me. We’ll see! xoxox, Brenda

    • Looking for new pastures is the key for me. As long as I’m doing something with my brain…I’m good. I don’t mind not having to get up every morning at 6:00, though! That is heaven!
      P.S. The second picture Hubby and I was taken at Machu Picchu in Peru, not Patagonia:)

  3. This, absolutely: “Finding new ways to explore our passions, new ways to use those good skills we developed during a long and fulfilling work life.”

    As a freelancer, retirement for me will be different than traditional retirement, yet all you said above is my goal.

    Great post!

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