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This is What Retirement Feels Like

Q&A with Julie Campbell 

What does it feel like to be newly retired? What now? Like any other major life change, retirement can be both thrilling and daunting. Here are some thoughts on the subject from Cherie’s friend and fellow Baby Boomer Julie Campbell, who retired from Washington and Lee University a few months ago, after a successful communications career. Julie recently sent us a photo from France! Travel is definitely high on the list of new retirees’ goals. And so much more…

  1. What were your initial thoughts in the first week or two after your last day on the job: relief, sadness, joy, fear of the future? Please tell us about it.

The first week felt like a staycation, because my last day of work was a Friday, and the following week contained the July 4th holiday. It took until the second week to really sink in.

One of my duties at work involved emergency communications, and I had an app on my iPhone in case I ever had to send such a message to all employees at my workplace. On the morning of July 1, my first official day as a retiree, I happily, and with a sense of relief, deleted that app.

  1. What were you looking forward to the most when you retired: just time to breathe and relax, travel, hobbies, spending time with family, etc?

More than anything, in the immediate future, I want the time to figure out my next step. I will still work, but I don’t yet know what form that will take. And yes, time to breathe, to relax, to travel — those necessities are all on my agenda. As for time with family, I am answering this during a three-week visit with my mother in my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I could not have spent so long here if I were still working full time.

  1. What is the first fun thing you will do that you may not have been able to do when you were working?

I am enjoying a yoga class at 10:30 on Monday mornings.

  1. What will retirement look like for you? What are your plans moving forward?

As I mentioned above, I will still work, as a freelancer, or part-time, or as a consultant. If a fabulous full-time job comes along, I will consider it. I’ll write, I’ll edit, and who knows what else. I have a couple of ideas for books. I have loved working in higher-education communications at Washington and Lee University these past 15 years, so I might do something in that field. Before W&L, I spent 15 years as an editor of historical journals, so that field appeals to me as well. I will also explore some volunteer pursuits.

  1. Do you feel differently now that you have had a few weeks to let it all sink in?

I am still adjusting. The next couple of months bring more travels, so I’m focused on those adventures for now.

  1. Do you have any specific concerns about retirement?

I sure hope Social Security (I’m a few years away from that) and the stock market hang in there.

  1. Do you have a good idea of how life will look moving forward, a very specific plan, or are you allowing things to unfold naturally?

For the next few months, I’m going with the natural unfolding. Fingers crossed.

  1. What are your plans for dividing up your time now?

I am still pondering that part of retirement, given my upcoming travels.

  1. Do you think you will remain in contact with your work colleagues? Will you feel compelled to seek out a new social circle?

Yes, I worked with some terrific people at W&L and will stay in touch. I also have a wide circle in Richmond, Virginia, where I lived for several years, and where I will be returning soon. I’m looking forward to seeing those professional and personal friends more often.

  1. Will you keep up with career activities like professional associations, etc?

Absolutely. My friends in professional organizations have helped me sort out this new phase of life, and I’m not letting go of them anytime soon.

  1. What advice do you have for those facing retirement? 

It’s a personal decision; take all the time you need to make it. In early 2017, I was close to making the announcement, and then my father died unexpectedly. As I grieved, I knew I should not make any major life changes, so I put my retirement plans on hold. Several months later, I attended a retreat at a place in Massachusetts that offers yoga and meditation in a beautiful setting. I was able to be still and calm and think clearly about retiring. In that frame of mind, I knew it was the right decision and the right timing.

  1. Any tips on planning ahead for retirement/lessons learned?

My main tip is for people who are just starting out in their careers, or are at the midpoint: Take full advantage of your employer’s retirement plan, if you are lucky enough to have one. Or make regular contributions to an IRA.



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Julie Campbell, a writer and editor, retired in June after 15 years at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, as the editor of the university magazine and associate director of communications and public affairs. Before that, she spent eight years as editor of Virginia Cavalcade, the magazine of history and culture published by the Library of Virginia, in Richmond, and seven years as associate editor of The Journal of Arizona History, at the Arizona Historical Society, in Tucson, Arizona. She began her editing career in Denver, Colorado, with a lifestyle magazine and with trade magazines for the plastics industry. She has a B.A. (Arizona State University) and M.A. (University of Arizona), both in history, and has written a textbook, Studies in Arizona History, and The Horse in Virginia: An Illustrated History, which won the People's Choice Award for Nonfiction from the Library of Virginia in 2011.