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Retiring: Yes, the time has arrived

Whether you made the transition decades ago or you're doing it soon, the word "retire" gets attention. Well, maybe not the active interest of a 12-year-old, but for anyone past age 55, it can be a conversation starter.

I've attempted a nonscientific categorization of likely responses. I started with the statement, "I plan to retire from my job at the end of the month." (Tis true — I do. Thought you should know.)

The most common response is something like, "Wow, that's great. I plan to do it next spring."

What often follows is a detailed discussion of retirement particulars. For example, "Exactly how do you apply for Social Security, anyway?" (Impressively easy. Hope you experience it in exactly that way.)

Another response, usually accompanied by a mischievous grin, "I retired a few years ago and I'm having the time of my life. I've never been so busy — every day's an adventure." (Conversations with those folks can be a real kick, by the way.)

There are some who say, "You're still going to write your column, aren't you?" The answer to that one is "Yes." And I'm starting a blog, too. More about that later, after I've figured out how to do it.

There are a few folks who have said to me, "Retire? You seem way too young to retire!" (Bless them.)

I don't feel "old enough" to retire in the same way my father did. At my age, younger in fact, he just stopped working and then spent a large amount of time over the next 20 years in his recliner reading World War II nonfiction and watching college football on TV. But he was happy doing that. And studies indicate retired people, no matter how they choose to spend their days, are "happy." In fact 77 percent use that word to describe themselves, and 42 percent say they wish they had done it sooner (www.retirement-cafe.com).

Some people have asked me, "What will you do with your time?"

To that remark, my aging-explorer husband, who's also retiring (but not for a few more months), answers by saying, "She has a list — and it's long."

And I counter tenderly, "And you are on it, my dear. In fact, I have a list for you too."

Things like walking the dog twice a day instead of twice a week. More time to read and reflect. Continuous learning. Lots of that. My spouse and I plan to create opportunities for mutually honed projects that make a measurable difference in the community in which we live. It takes some thinking, and maybe a little risk, if you want to do more than recline. On that note, stay tuned.

I leave my faculty responsibilities at Oregon State University Extension with complete readiness for the next stage and with special acknowledgement to the good people I have worked with for more than a decade. I move to the next life stage with a particular gratefulness to those of you who keep reading this column and provide me with perceptive and acknowledging feedback.

I will retire and join many of you who already have, along with the hundreds of long-retired Extension volunteers who garden masterfully and preserve food elegantly and live life well.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. Email her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 541-776-7371, Ext. 210.