Driving to Alaska was a fantasy right up there with pigs flying! My reality was working as an administrative assistant for over forty-five years, raising three children as a single mother, circumstance generating abundant determination, but few bank deposits. Yet, the concept of spending my first year of retirement as a volunteer in Alaska would evolve and, like the pigs, sprout wings to become a series of adventures.
Limbo is a precarious place to be but, due to the current financial crisis, that’s where many exist. Limbo – that space of limited income – no recourse but to work, not only for benefits, but for survival. However, when I received an email mentioning organizations supplement their staff with volunteers offering free room and board, my mind-set changed from negative to positive. Since I would depend solely on Social Security income, receiving room and board in return for working a forty hour week was crucial. I would only be responsible for transportation to my destination plus incidental expenses. I remember thinking, I can do this!
Life, like history, is cyclical. Our transitions ebb and flow, although some of us seem to experience more transition than others. Over a twenty-year span, due to a grass-is-greener-spouse, I moved eighteen times across the country and back. Pioneering into the unknown can cause frustration and anxiety, but it also builds skills in planning and organization. Approaching retirement as one more transition is perhaps why my choice of a unique volunteer retirement lifestyle did not cause trepidation. I was accustomed to the drama and trauma of perpetual change.
As most born around the end of World War II, I was raised to consider others before self. Today it seems self comes first, not selfish, self, as in responsibility to self before assuming responsibility for someone else. This outlook is focused on reality. When thirty-something’s speak to their lifestyle, the reference is to “I” and “my” rather than “our”. I began to reprogram myself, picturing the rest of my life from this divergent perspective.
And, I am not alone. Boomers are just one group discovering adjustments to lifestyle may be in order. Senior years are no longer considered golden years, rather mystery years, a time when twenty-years or more may be anticipated to enjoy and experiment, provided you are physically, emotionally, and financially prepared. The unknown awaits.
There are two other groups discovering adjustments may be necessary: recent college grads, hopeful and skilled, yet without a job; and the unemployed. College grads revel in their independence while volunteering, adding to their resume while sending out resumes while not living with Mom and Dad. The unemployed, provided they are not responsible for others, find it can be a new start.
Does this lifestyle take courage? Certainly. The unknown always does. A friend told me that taking a chance on my lifestyle took verve. I looked it up. Verve means possessing a special ability to pull something off with panache and wild, chaotic, unpredictable passion. Although I am cautious and methodical in my planning, my demeanor probably exuded verve with a capitol “V”. I recommend experiencing verve. Try it . . . like me, this lifestyle may become your passion.
Barbara M Traynor, author & freelance journalist, lives in up-state NY. Her book, Second Career Volunteer… is available @ www.secondcareervolunteer.com as a Google E-Book, Kindle and through Amazon.