Re-Imagining Retirement: Feeling invisible

Shraon Rolph

The transition into retirement often holds several momentous “aha’s. One is when you realize you no longer have a reason to get out of bed! Another is who do you socialize with during the day, when your colleagues are all at work? Here’s a tough one: How do you know if your day was productive? Nobody is telling you what needs to get done today – your scope of work. And, what about what you are contributing to the world today? To some of us, changes of any kind can throw off balance. Loss is another tough one: your ‘regular’ lunch joint, your daily walk to catch the bus, and your commuter buds. Then, who is challenging and stretching your growth or expanding your mind now?

I’ve found those who had highly competitive jobs, worked hordes of overtime hours or were pilots or first-responders, are especially feeling lost in retirement. From my behavioral scientist viewpoint, what I see they all have in common is the lack of a support system at home. No regular social group(s) that they’ve hung out with (book club, golf buddies, choir, bowling, etc.). A place outside of home where they feel they fit in, where people know them.

I wrestled with “feeling productive” and was bouncing off the walls wondering if I was wasting my days? Efficiency is important to me, after all.

Luckily, a volunteer event director had warned me several years back that it’s a good idea to always have something else to look forward to, prior to your big event getting wrapped up. So, when retirement was on my horizon, I decided my next event would be more learning and signed up for coaching classes. It felt like a natural progression of my facilitating role at Boeing. Good choice, since I loved bringing out the best in people.

Coaching often involves a transformative process, for the coach and client. Little did I know on the first day of class, that when I told a story about daring to wear a fancy hat to a birthday party coming up the following weekend, that it held a key to my embryonic transformation. (Hear more of the story Oct. 11 on the Facebook page Fresh Courage in Retirement at my live book launch event.)

Now, in job transitions we can get confused about who we are without our colleagues, business cards or team and tasks. When one client was forced to retire/leave, she became so insulted by her daughter treating her as if she was invisible because she no longer had a job!

I felt mostly invisible throughout my life, in spite of earning a master’s degree, taking Dale Carnegie courses and even becoming a competent Toastmaster. Granted, I’d gone the normal, responsible career route. But being born in the middle of five, it’s quite normal for middle kids to feel invisible. But after I retired, I had an aha moment, when looking at a list of things that gave me warm memories, I noticed half of them were in front of people! (Could it be, I had been in the wrong career??!) Enter Stage Right: the hat story.

This new revelation gave me the whim to test out being on stage and having something to say. Now on Instagram, I am known as the Queen of Courage. I have over 90 videos on YouTube. And, my new book is about to be released – Oct. 11 — where I include lots of resources and stories of retirees living new possibilities, just like me. Look for it now as a pre-order on Amazon.

— By Sharon Rolph

Sharon Rolph is a retirement coach who lives in Edmonds and aspires to be an international speaker. Her new book, Fresh Courage in Retirement: finding purpose, Essence and fulfillment, will be released Oct. 11. Learn more at

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