It is kind of funny because for the first half of my career, it was all about mentally preparing for the next work assignment and the next career step, hoping to strike to right balance between something I can be good at, something lucrative and sustainable, and something that will keep me happy.
At this stage in life, the hunt is still on, but not so much about the next career step as it is for activities I may be interested in pursuing in my next chapter.
Of course, there is no rush. As I suggested in my post about my retirement “gap year”, sleeping, recharging my batteries and writing for the fun of it will be my top activities in that first year. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking note of the activities that make me happy and which hold particular meaning to me.
Volunteering is one of those activities.
Much like with one’s career, I think it is very important to pitch in not only where the need exists but also to volunteer for causes that are close to one’s heart. In doing so, the time spent volunteering should be more fun and energizing rather than draining.
This is what I tried to explain to my dad many moons ago, when he objected to my volunteering just as I was launching my career. In retrospect, I certainly understand his point of view in that it was important to focus my full energy to my burgeoning career. But early on, there were days that I felt that my job was not tapping into my full potential, especially from a creative perspective.
That is why I was looking for other outlets.
Volunteering gave me a chance to strike a happy medium, by learning a few more skills that were excellent complements to my resume. And in all honesty, I got more out of the experience than I put into it, including the satisfaction from a job well done and from doing my part to help the community.
In thinking back over the years, I worked on a variety of volunteer gigs that were fun, which meant a lot to me and that really warmed my heart:
– I cannot count how many batches of cookies (regular and gluten-free) I have whipped up over the years for fundraising bake sales.
– I have been on the phones, taking pledges for the Muscular Distrophy Telethon as well as for the Children’s Hospital Telethon.
– I assisted at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Teddy Bear’s Picnic, helping nurse sick teddy bears back to health.
– For 3 years, I volunteered at my local community TV station, helping out on a variety of television programs.
– I did some “voice talent” work at my community paper, recording an audio version of the community news.
– I also spent a few years doing translation work and working on Pride festivities for my running club, the Ottawa Frontrunners.
I remain grateful for the opportunity to help out, as each one came with its own unique sense of accomplishment and great energy. In doing so, it was my way of trying to pay it forward to the community that offered me so much over the years.
Which brings me back to the question of retirement, what is next for me and volunteering?
Obviously it’s a little early to tell, and will depend on a number of variables at that time.
But if I had to pick something now, it might be something new to me like helping out in an animal shelter.
Ever since I adopted Ivy the Wonder Cat, I have come to learn so much about pets and the challenges encountered by the shelters and rescues in trying to protect them and keep them healthy. It has really tugged at my heartstrings.
After a lifetime of working with and for people, I am wondering if shifting my focus to the four legged clientele might be the right change of pace. In doing so, I can still help out to the best of my ability, but for a pet with an immediate need for comfort, care or someone to play with, I can give from the heart rather than from the brain.
I think my biggest danger will be resisting the temptation to take them all home, and driving Ivy (reigning queen of this house) to the brink in suddenly having to manage a group of followers.
But given that our beloved pets are a reminder of the importance of living in the moment, it might also help me transition from a lifelong career of planning and strategic thinking, to being far more mindful and appreciative of the daily joys of retirement.
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