Guest Post: Dr Sock’s Third Career

From Retirement Reflections: Our last Guest Post has been written by a personal friend, blogger and fellow Vancouver Island resident.  Welcome back, Dr Sock!

Thanks, Donna, for inviting me back to be a guest host once again on Retirement Reflections.

As some of you know, I am a recent retiree. As of the end of April, I will have been retired for ten months. In my first guest post on Donna’s blog last September, I was just making the transition to retirement, and I wrote about that transition in my guest post, Over the Threshold into Retirement. I truly didn’t know whether I was ready to retire, and I was filled with angst about it. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like without work, and who I would be once I shed my work identity.

So I tricked myself into making the leap. I secretly decided to re-conceptualize retirement as my third career. (Don’t tell Rob.) In my first career, I worked in the health care field in rehabilitation hospitals. In my second career, the one I was retiring from, I was a university educator. In my third career, I decided that I would become not a retiree, but a writer and artist.

It made perfect sense. For years, I had been posting sad accounts on my blog, Dr Sock Writes Here, about how frustrated I was because I did not have time to pursue my twin passions of writing and art. I started writing projects that I never finished. I squeezed in some art workshops and classes, but rarely had time to paint outside of those scheduled times.

Often, I would feel inspired by a creative idea, but then would never even start the art project, or poem, or book because I knew I did not have the time, energy, and focus to complete it. Many great ideas fizzled out and were lost forever. There were periods of time lasting five years or longer when I did no writing, or I did no art, or I did a little of one but none of the other.

The thing about work is that it takes up a lot of time, especially the way that I did it, which was excessively and obsessively. I threw all my energy at working. Everything else in life – family, a social life, exercise, marriage, meals, travel, adventure, errands, house tasks, and creative endeavours – had to squeeze into the little bit of time that I had left over in the margins of my life. I was tired all of the time. I gave my best self to work. So it is not surprising that creative activities mostly were put in the background.

When a person retires, they trade work for time. Suddenly, forty hours or more each week that used to be filled with employment becomes available to be used in some other way. Sometimes a person doesn’t get to choose how to spend much of that time, if they are caring for elderly parents or a spouse who is ill, or if they themselves are struggling with health issues.

Dr Sock
Jude and Kate settling into ‘retired life.’

But many of us do discover that we suddenly have hours and hours of open time in front of us every day. All that unstructured, purposeless time can look rather terrifying to a person considering retiring. Some people rush to fill up the yawning emptiness with busywork, or self improvement schemes, or they volunteer for every committee they can find. To be sure, the minute you retire, people will be hitting you up to volunteer, and it is so easy to say “yes,” that one day you might discover that you have such a busy schedule and tangle of obligations that you have recreated the same over-scheduled life that you retired to get away from. Conversely, many people don’t figure out how to fill the time. They either fritter it away surfing the net and sitting in front of the TV, or they find it so depressing that they get a job and go back to work.

I was fortunate that I had earned a ten-month paid leave that I took prior to retiring. Although I was working on some academic projects during that time, I also had a lot of time to think through the process of whether and how to retire. Reading retirement blogs like Donna’s Retirement Reflections and Bob Lowry’s A Satisfying Retirement helped me to realize that I did not want to squander my precious gift of time.

I wanted to use my after-retirement time to shift from paid employment to a new kind of work – my own life work. In this third act of my life, my work is to write and do art. I call it “work” to give it the serious attention it is due.

Of course, there is more to life than work. I now have more time to be Grandma, present in my grandchildren’s lives, and I spend more time with my adult children. I have more time to exercise, enjoy cooking, have a social life, volunteer, travel, garden, read, and be lazy. I still do some (unpaid) scholarly work.

I have joined a group of local artists and will be showing my paintings at Nanoose Place at a spring art showcase on April 27-29. After the art show, I plan to open a studio/gallery that will be open to visitors.

I have been working on my novel, and have added 58,000 words to it since retiring. I am close to completing a first draft. Recently, I have joined a writers’ group, and am excited about spending time with other writers sharing our work and talking about writing.

So far, the only serious threat to my new job as a writer/artist is that retirement is turning out to be so much fun! I have met lots of people and am becoming involved in our new community. There are so many groups and social opportunities that already I find myself turning down invitations and having to bite my tongue when calls go out for volunteers. Too many “yeses” will limit the time and energy that I have available for my creative work.

I have discovered that I really like this slower pace of life. Slow living, savouring each moment of engagement, and enjoying the beautiful world all around me: that is the kind of life I want to have. (Don’t laugh. I know that I have never gone at a speed less than frenetic, but I can change!)

Having the time to observe, muse, and daydream opens a space for creative ideas to emerge, so that all I need to do is show up at the easel and paint, or to sit down at the computer and write. Step by step, I am learning to put writing and art at the center of my life instead of off in the murky margins. Part of that process is learning not to distract myself and fill up my time with other people’s priorities. Part of it is leaning into instead of running away from big empty blocks of time.

Dr Sock
Jude as Coach Potato.

Jude (aka Dr  Sock/Gideon Sockpuppet)

From Retirement Reflections: A warm, heartfelt thank you to all bloggers who have generously contributed to this Guest Post series. When you have the chance, I highly recommend giving their sites a visit. You won’t be disappointed! Boots Shoes & Fashion, Cresting the Hill, Deb’s World, Dr. Sock Writes Here, Easing Along, Encore Voyage, Global Housesitters x2, Grammy’s Grid, Hugh’s Views and News, Lisa Dorenfest, My Life Lived Full, Natalie the Explorer, Profound Journey, Retirement Transition, Retirementally Challenged, Roaming About, Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, Shallow Reflections, Sizzling Toward Sixty and Beyond, Smart Living 365, Snakes in the Grass, So What? Now What?, The Glasgow Gallivanter, Travels with Fran, Views and Mews by Coffee Kat and Wagemadness.  You can view all Guest Posts here. What will you do with your Sundays (at Six) from now on?! 🙂

58 Replies to “Guest Post: Dr Sock’s Third Career”

    1. Hi, Antoinette – I hope that you do get to retire soon and fully explore your passions. I love your writing and selfishly would like to read more!
      Great minds think alike, I was just adding your URL to my sidebar and this comment popped up!

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    2. I suppose in my case, my work as an academic also was one of my passions. But it also gobbled up all of my time. Antoinette, you are right that finances can dictate a retirement date. I am by nature a fairly frugal person, so I was able to save enough to to be able to retire early at age 60.

      Jude

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  1. I love the sentence, “Step by step, I am learning to put writing and art at the center of my life instead of off in the murky margins.” That says it all, Jude,
    I appreciate your conceptualization of creative work as your third career and completely understand why you’d want to look at it that way. Although I’m after the same goal, I have to avoid the word ‘career’ because of its association with overwork and exclusivity. I don’t want to live that life ever again, even for the creative work that I love.
    Is that ever a concern for you, Jude? It sounds as if you have great balance right now. Do you anticipate that continuing? If so, what do you think makes this career different from the last one? What’s preventing you from putting everything other than creativity out on the murky margins?

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    1. Hi, Karen – I totally understand you not wanting to associate your creative pursuits with ‘work’ or ‘career.’ Actually, Richard and I just had this discussion at the kitchen table. For me, to mix the two would connote a different level of responsibility and a (psychological) loss of freedom.
      I greatly appreciate you sharing these insightful questions. I look forward to reading Jude’s answers.

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      1. Donna, that is an interesting point. For many of us, I think our professional careers involved a level of commitment and responsibility that that took over our lives, leaving little time to attend to anything else. I can totally understand not wanting to go back to that. In my case, I think of my creative work as my life purpose (or one of them). Because I am an amateur painter and an unpublished novelist, I feel outside of the creative rat race (if there is such a thing). And that gives me the freedom to go at my own pace, rather than being driven by external priorities.

        Jude

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    2. Karen these are thought provoking questions. I guess one answer is that before retiring, I had bought into the stereotypic image of retirees so well portrayed by cartoonists: unfashionable, decrepit, and overweight with butts firmly planted in easy chairs in front of the TV. Or the other stereotype of pampered wealthy seniors focused on a whirl of golf, social engagements, and self indulgence seemed equally unappealing. I dreaded the thought of the empty superficial life that would be my fate once I let go of having a career. So at the point of making the leap to retirement, calling it my third career was a way of reassuring myself that I wasn’t leaping off the cliff to empty nothingness. At that point, fear was part of the reason for thinking of creative work as a new career.

      But now, I have discovered that I can have a rich, multifaceted, slower paced life. Retirement isn’t empty at all. I do not miss the busyness and self-importance of my former career, nor do I wish to replicate it. I am learning to trust myself to invent each new day and to just be. Maybe it has something to do with learning to be okay with who I am and not needed to impress anyone or climb any more career ladders. I have been down that path, and never again.

      Jude

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  2. Hi, Karen – I totally understand you not wanting to associate your creative pursuits with ‘work’ or ‘career.’ Actually, Richard and I just had this discussion at the kitchen table. For me, to mix the two would connote a different level of responsibility and a (psychological) loss of freedom.
    I greatly appreciate you sharing these insightful questions. I look forward to reading Jude’s answers.

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  3. Wow, Jude! You are a very successful retiree! 🙂 I’m so glad you manage to prioritize and focus on your art and writing now! You’ve made so much progress those last ten months. And, your art show is coming up. Very exciting!

    I love how you “tricked” yourself into retirement. Way to go! And, it gave you so much purpose. That photo of you being a couch potato doesn’t look quite right. 🙂

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    1. Hi Liesbet. Indeed I am a happy retiree, much to my surprise. Strangely enough, the couch potato component of retirement is turning out to be part of the balance of a slower paced life. Now I have time most mornings to sit on the couch drinking coffee in my pyjamas while doing my online second language lessons and reading blogs.

      Yes, the art show is just a few days from now. The old me would have been all stressed out about getting ready, working through a to do list, and feeling mad at myself for not getting everything on the list done in time. The new me sits on the couch with coffee saying “oh well. I guess it won’t be perfect. Won’t it be fun!”

      Jude

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  4. It’s sounds as though your retirement plan is working out perfectly for you, Jude. Wishing you the best with your novel! I have no doubt you’ll finish that one and write many more. Enjoy! Thanks for bringing Jude back for a visit, Donna.

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    1. Hi, Anabel – I agree that Jude gets an A+ for her retirement transition. Thank you for your kind words about this Guest Post series. It was a wonderful way for me to be able to share blog sites that I admire, and to get to know these bloggers better myself!

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    2. Anabel, retirement looks rosy now, but it actually was preceded by years of agonizing. I cannot say that it was an easy transition. And I am sure that Rob, who watched me struggle through all the “what-ifs,” can attest to that.

      Jude

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  5. Hi Donna. Thanks so much for putting this great guest host series together and for featuring so many interesting guest hosts. My blog reading has expanded greatly through meeting new bloggers on your site. And, thanks again for including me in your series.

    Jude

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    1. Hi, Jude – Thanks so much for joining in and agreeing to write the final Guest Post for this series. Yours is a perfect fit to highlight my main goal of this blog (i.e. there is much to discover on the other side of retirement)! I greatly appreciate that we now live near each other and can share experience many retirement moments together!

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  6. So many interesting blogs. I don’t have time to read them all. It seems like a daunting project. Guess what? I don’t have to read any of them. Yet. Or now. Or ever. I don’t want to fall prey to FOMO. Fear of Missing Out.

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    1. HI, Ann – That’s the joy of blogging, especially being a non-monetized blogger. We can read what interests us, when we have the time. I find that the blogging community is so generous (especially in this corner of the blogosphere). I always feel warmly welcomed back with open arms whenever I’ve taken time away.

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  7. Yes I thought I would retire and be an artist too but I found another calling. There are 12,000 artists in Vancouver. I found tutoring English as a second language more fun and interesting than drawing and painting and way more social. My top student has just aced her SAT exams and been accepted at U of Toronto. I am honored to have had a small part in her success.

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    1. Congratulations, Ann! That is awesome when a student, whom we have worked so hard to mentor, achieves a major goal. You are right, there are so many unique and varied callings out there. It is great exploring and finding which fit best.

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    2. Ann, I am glad that you have found a pursuit that you enjoy. I suppose that if I expected my art to earn me an income, I would find it daunting. But I don’t. I do it just for me.

      Jude

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  8. Donna! You went out with a bang on your Sunday Series! I totally get your life, Jude, and I have struggled with my own (I call it semi-retirement) because I retired from my job in public parks and recreation after 32 years, but continued teaching part-time at a university teaching in the parks and rec major as a “prac-ademic.” Since last October I had to fast track new curriculum for this semester’s management course that needed a complete overhaul. I had to take a blogging break due to the workload of creating lectures and class content. As the semester winds down I can get back to blogging. My hubby works full time still (we’re both 58) so teaching keeps me busy. But as much as I love it, the desire for artistic creativity seeps in (always) and that gets handled with photography and maybe getting back to painting. I love writing as well, and blogging certainly honed that skill, but I still am only halfway through my next book on fitness. Congrats on getting your novel close to first draft! Neither of those hobbies will make me much $$ and that is OK for me, too! Nice meeting you Jude!

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    1. Yeah, Terri! I’m so happy to hear that your teaching work load has been winding down, and you are now ready to get back to blogging. You’ve definitely been missed.. It’s feeling extra bright, in this corner of the blogosphere, now that you say you have time to come back!

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    2. Wow, Terri, your life sounds very full. Teaching, blogging, photography, fitness, and writing a book… I can see why you describe yourself as semi-retired rather than retired. Contrary to popular perception, university work is very time consuming. It is not just the few hours of teaching per week that people see, but all the stuff behind the scenes – planning, mentoring students, marking, developing curriculum, collaborating with colleagues, serving on committees, reading in your field, networking with and providing service to the broader community, maintaining professional skills and qualifications – and that doesn’t even count the research and administration sides. I can see that you have been down that rabbit hole! Nice to meet you, too.

      Jude

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  9. Hi Jude – Thank you for such an uplifting post. Your third career is wonderful and it is fabulous that you’re embracing it at your own pace. Some people take a long time to discover their passion. You already have passions such as art and writing. These two activities are endless as long as you want to continue them.

    Thanks Donna for the opportunity to read so many interesting guest posts in this series and to participate in it.

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Thank you for your idea to offer Guest Hosts a second round. The combination of both series allowed hosts to describe their blogs, but also to focus in more detail on a particular passion. I’ve learned a great deal…and hope that others have too!

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    2. Hi Natalie. I think that one reason that it is easy for me to jump right into art and writing is that I always tried to make time for them throughout my life, so it was not like starting from scratch. After retirement, I didn’t have to scratch my head and say, “Well, now what?” I had a pent up desire to write and paint, and a body of creative work already from those hours I had squeezed in to do it despite my busy career. Maybe it is a little like your passion for travelling. You knew what you wanted to do and you went for it!

      Jude

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  10. I really enjoy reading about people who are proactively approaching retirement and loving all the freedom it brings. I’m down to 2 days a week of work and I reckon I could easily fill them with leisure pursuits – I’ve even found that I’m old enough to attend the really cheap activities at our local senior citizens centre (still not sure how that makes me feel???) Glad you’re enjoying your art and writing and inspiring the rest of us in the process.

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    1. Hi, Leanne – Once you fully retire, I know that you will not have any difficulty filing in your days in a satisfying way. As for qualifying for reduced price activities, I think that’s great. Whatever keeps us active has gotta be good!

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    2. Thanks, Leanne. I am finding retirement to be a delight, and having time for writing and art is the icing on the cake.

      Although I haven’t checked out any senior’s centre activities yet, I do appreciate restaurants that offer reduced-size portions for seniors, at a reduced price. Otherwise, I usually find myself carrying half my meal home in a takeout container every time we go out to dine.

      Jude

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  11. Hey Jude
    You really hit the nail on the head. I’m also recently retired. (almost 4 months) I really love it, although, I have trouble finding time to do all the things I want to do. So, I have a loose schedule in place, but one thing I do without fail is spending the first hour of the day freewriting. The house is quiet and I’m free to be me. This time helps me work through frustrations and produces loads of blog ideas
    Laura

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    1. Laura, thanks for commenting. I have read a couple of Julia Cameron’s books, and they had a huge influence on me. In particular, I became much more determined to make time for creative endeavours in my life. I did try writing morning pages many years ago, but it didn’t really work for me at that time. However, I was working full time and a single parent of three, so that might explain it! I think I will give morning pages another try, now that I am retired.

      Jude

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  12. Thanks, Linda, and enjoy your birthday. I am glad that my observations are comforting. The thing is, I guess a person can’t really know how their retirement will play out until they do it. I think that, in my case, all the worrying and planning that I did beforehand was necessary psychological work that prepared me for this next phase of life.

    Jude

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  13. Hi Jude I retired early to spend time with my husband who is 9 years older and already retired. What a shock to my system! It has taken me 4 years to adjust and realise that I just retired from my job but not my life! The blogging community really helped me as I could discuss with women who were experiencing the same thing. I agree we need to slow down and enjoy the moment we just don’t need to stop. Thanks Donna for a wonderful Sunday Series. xx

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    1. Hi Sue. My husband also is older than me — seven years in our case. He took early retirement and has already been retired for 12 years. Although he never pressured me at all, he was very happy that I retired. We both wanted to spend time doing things we enjoyed before we got too old and doddery, and my crazy work hours were limiting those opportunities. So, like you, that was a factor in my decision.

      As for your point about retiring from a job, not from life, I think the thing I had trouble understanding was that my job wasn’t my life. That is, that there is more to life than working. I am glad that you have adjusted to retirement and are enjoying it now.

      Jude

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  14. I love to read about your journey, Jude! I remember being one of those who encouraged you when you first retired. I could tell that you had a lot of interests and would do well out of the career track. I wish I could attend your art show but I’ll have to wait for your website to get up and running to see more of your beautiful paintings.

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      1. Yes, I’d love to meet you in person! Whenever you do visit the Island, I would be happy to show you around my studio/gallery (which is opening soon). Vancouver Island is very picturesque. Donna and I could show you around, and I think you would find lots of interesting subjects to photograph.

        Jude

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    1. Yes, Janis, you did offer me encouragement and reassurance. I remember when I first discovered your blog, I read many, many posts from your archives. It was so helpful to read about how you had dealt with the various questions and concerns that are part of the retirement experience. You served as a role model for me!

      Thanks for your kind comment about my paintings. I hope to be announcing my art website on my blog soon.

      Jude

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  15. This has been a great series Donna and I thank you for including me in the line up! I enjoyed this last post by Dr Sock and love the fact you are savouring the slower time and finding so much to fill the time with. I agree it’s so much fun and a fabulous time of our lives.

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      1. Hi Debbie. I love the slower pace of life now. Who would have thought it, as in the past all of my verbs for going places were words like rush, hurry, zoom, zip, and race.

        Donna, knowing you, you will have NO difficulty filling your Sundays.

        Jude

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  16. Oh Jude, so glad to hear that you’re now able to get back into your writing and art! Do let us know when your book is published 🙂 There’s so much I want to do and although I no longer work, my health issues keep me from doing things I used to enjoy such as crafts and finishing a book I started writing. Donna, I shared this post x 4 ♥

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    1. Hi, Dee – Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on Jude’s post. I am sorry to hear that health issues have stopped you from finishing the book that you have started writing. I would love to read it! Hoping that you are currently feeling better. Donna

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    2. Dee, thanks for commenting. I am fortunate to still have my health. I hope that with your health condition you have some days when you feel well enough to pursue crafts and other interests.

      Jude

      Like

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