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Walking Away From the Job I Loved

Why she knew the time was right to retire but has one big worry


(This article was provided through The OpEd Project, whose mission is to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world.)

James Ivory, the 89-year-old Oscar winner, obviously never got the memo that “it’s time” for retirement. But Ivory is the exception. For many of us who delayed retirement beyond 66, that adage is true: For me, at 70, it’s now time and I know it.

Indicators suggest that 25 million people will retire in 2018. Perusing contemporary information about retirement, we learn how much money will be needed to retire, we can find a retirement checklist to help prepare and even learn the best places to live in retirement.

Among the 4 Percent Who Take Retirement at 70

Financial advisers provide information about waiting to age 70 to claim Social Security benefits to increase monthly payments, while a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College finds that only 3 percent of men and 4 percent of women actually do wait until 70 to retire. Having weighed all the odds, I am one of those 4 percent.

But for many older Americans, retirement concerns may have nothing to do with maximizing Social Security payments and everything to do with the central role work plays in their lives.

The Job I Loved

Walking away from the job I love, the career I worked so hard to establish, the obstacles I overcame to get where I am today will be hard.

As a woman who has worked in a technology-related teaching field, my career challenges have been abundant. When I started, there were no instructional designers and no technologists with teaching-related interests. We figured out what would work from the tools we had.

I started teaching writing in the computer lab before we had effective networking abilities. I wrote webpages in html until Netscape came out with its editor. I taught online courses when technologies were basic and insufficient. I’ve learned the technology, figured out how to apply it to teaching and taught others to use these tools in pedagogically sound ways.

Fast-forward to 2018 (and it truly does seem like a fast-forward), and the world has embraced technologies that were only imagined in the early 1990s. Technology is ubiquitous — in and outside the classroom.

Thanks to the technology that has provided my livelihood for the past 29 years, we have massive amounts of information to guide decision-making.

What Worries Me About Retirement

I am not concerned with filling my time once I no longer come to campus every day. Living in Chicago, there are an infinite number of opportunities to volunteer or work part-time for the benefit of those who have not had the opportunities I have had. No, I will stay busy.

But what I do worry about is the reality that I will no longer have to keep up with current technologies; that challenges of how to apply changing technological advances will elude me. I worry about becoming irrelevant.

My colleagues are my friends. My social life, such as it is, is tied up with my campus relationships. And while we will remain friends, the dynamic will be different.

There will be no meetings where we face a challenge and then decide to go to lunch together to finish talking about the issues. No twice-monthly gatherings to share ideas for how we can improve our units. No guest speakers to select. No professional conferences to attend.

It’s Someone Else’s Turn

Today’s education challenges have switched from how to use the tools to matching the educational research to the pedagogical applications of technological tools, studies that did not exist when I started in this field. My office needs to move in these new directions and it is someone else’s turn to lead this charge.

My career has been amazing. I’ve seen so many changes, worked with countless faculty, students and staff and made so many friends. And now it is over.

I’ve learned and grown along the way. And I leave with the knowledge that those with whom I’ve worked will keep a small piece of what we shared as they continue on.

And that is how I cope with this impending change: the world of higher education will continue to evolve, but I had a small part in that evolution.

Carol Scheidenhelm
By Carol Scheidenhelm
Carol Scheidenhelm is director of the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy at Loyola University Chicago and a Public Voices Fellow with the Public Voices Greenhouse OpEd Project.

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