Steve Harding served as the City Manager of the Cities of Murrieta and Jurupa Valley, President of the City of San Diego’s Southeastern Development Corporation, Deputy City Manager of the City of Santa Ana, and Executive Director of the City of Santa Ana’s Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority.
This is part I of Steve’s conversation with himself about retirement. Read more from Stephen at Practitioner-Scholar.
Lets let the Vogues and Drew Carey start the conversation…
A little over three years ago, the stars aligned. You hit that magic age. You just completed a 40-year career. Your kids are grown, accomplished and self-sufficient. The last tuition checks have been cashed. As moderate consumers, both you and your better half have managed to compile the financial resources that allows you both to live where you want, go where you want, and do what you want. But you are going to have to do it all without the structural comfort that surrounded your previous life of full-time employment. The daily regiment of meetings, work assignments, deadlines and billable hours no longer dominate the day. Now, more than ever, how you fill the day will clearly be a matter of choice. It really always has been up to you but now, well, it’s different. You have to be your own administrative assistant. You need to take personal responsibility. Priorities change. You’ll need to adjust to a world where fewer people need or vie for your attention.
It is no longer mandatory to get up before the crack of dawn. You don’t have to figure out how to cram in a sporadic morning workout and a healthy breakfast before backing out of the garage. As far as your old commuting pattern goes, you no longer have to join the human version of the great wildebeest migration when your former freeway trek felt like a gnus gauntlet across the Serengeti. (Think of the highway patrol as the lions picking off the stragglers along the fringe of the herd.) Without a night meeting, the door-to-door-to-door commute marked the start and end of a 14-hour day. You never had to stop and think about filling it with things to do. If you missed breakfast, you ate in the car. Now, there are no more food rappers, crumbs, coffee stains, usually on the shirt, or banana peals to clean off of the front seat. Including the added trips to the cleaners and the carwash, the old demands of family and work consumed the day.
Welcome to the new dawn. You are now the oldest. You are at the top of the family food chain. The parents are gone, the kids are self-sufficient, your past career is done and those long commutes are over. You find yourself with a newfound cash of time. You may now, more than ever, realize that time is your most precious commodity. How you utilize it from here on out is totally your responsibility. Scheduling may require a rediscovering of you. Not the professional you, no you the person.
In the coming days and weeks, I will be posting a series of thoughts and experiences in the transition from full-time professional employment to this new phase of life. Beyond introspection and checking off items on the bucket list, what else? With the help of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, I plan to develop a portfolio, both personal and professional. What did I learn? Did I leave places better than when I found them? What are my encore options? Continue teaching? Back to consulting? Volunteering? Climbing Kilamanjaro before the final snows melt? You get the point.