Last updated December 2013.
It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly ten years since I retired or started retiring, since it took several tries before it became a fact. As AACAP’s Director of Government Affairs and Deputy Executive Director, I spent over twenty years doing work that was exciting (Congress!) and frustrating (Congress!). It was not easy to leave that job and the many wonderful friends in the membership and on the staff. Indeed, after I cleaned out my desk, Ginger Anthony called me several times with a request to rejoin an AACAP department on a temporary basis while the search for a new staff person was carried out. It was always a fun challenge to spend time in departments that I had witnessed being created, nurtured and staffed. From a total staff of four when Ginger Anthony hired me to over thirty when I left, there was always a sense that keeping up with cultural and technological changes was good and that timely new policies would be welcomed , and fair consideration given to everyone’s ideas.
In the first months of real retirement, when I knew there was no going back to AACAP, I did what many would suggest are the rookie activities: wore comfortable shoes every day, signed up for tai chi and painting classes and luxuriated in afternoon movies. I enjoyed all of these discoveries for awhile or until it became apparent there was no natural talent to build on and that sitting in a dark place for hours, even at senior prices, lacked long-term charm. What did maintain time and interest was the exploration of local political and educational activities.
The area where I live, Arlington County, Virginia, has been generous in developing programs that supply personal growth through volunteer projects for all ages. While I had been moderately active in the civic associations where I lived, learning more about how the whole county government was organized and tasked, became a fascinating project. There is almost no department or program within a department that didn’t have an outreach to the community activity. While I can still write, call and email my members of Congress, I can talk to and work with county officials and staff on environmental, commercial, affordable housing and senior-related issues. This same thing is true for the political parties at the county and precinct level. One of my favorite volunteer jobs is having a voter registration and candidate information table at a farmers market in my neighborhood. I get to help with registration but also talk about the local, state and national issues. Of course, I can still use some lobbying skills at those levels, too. The importance of doing jobs like voter registration was reconfirmed in recent Virginia elections where a statewide candidate for attorney general won by 167 votes out of over two million cast.
Another volunteer membership organization that I have become active in is called Encore Learning. It provides continuing education to folks over age 50 by offering college-level courses twice each year. As co-chair of a publications committee, I spend lots of volunteer hours helping prepare the course catalog and the newsletters. It’s not hard work, thank goodness, and I have opportunities to meet new friends and take some interesting classes. There are similar lifetime learning institutes in many areas of the country.
Finally, it is impossible not to mention that retirement in the Washington DC area is incredibly rich with culture, history, politics and supplements to most other interests that you could have. I do take advantage of the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, the hundreds of live theaters, galleries, and the federal monuments and buildings. I doubt there is any other place that will lure me away from here.