Approaching a new interest by Gregory Allen

Is volunteering sufficient to replace a purposeful working life?

Our life journey presents many celebrated milestones. Retirement whether planned or sudden, is often overlooked as one that can change a person and their future. 

Psychologists advise that our retirement activities can be defined as being in one of three categories: purposeful, hobbies or maintenance. Retirement dramatically reshuffled these for me. 

Without a job, I lost my purpose. I had no ‘tribe’, authority, schedule for the day, community stature or career identity as a result, my efforts were now focused on one area. I become obsessed with ‘maintenance’, health, cleaning, handy-work or redecorating. Something was going to break… my body or the house.

 

With this new awareness and after a short period of research, volunteering came up as a possible solution to my potentially wrecked home and impending divorce. 

I started with an audit of my skills, beliefs and interests and with some arrogance, I commenced the search for those worthy of my experience, skills and labor, this quickly turned to “Does anyone value what I can offer?” 

The arduous applications, slow responses and lack of interest from organisations triggered my internal voice to be one of self-doubt and anger. I needed to reassess my strategy while avoiding the growing tide of emotions that could lead to inaction and defeat. 

What was I experiencing? Well to begin, I hadn’t had to apply for anything for many years and I was now the new kid in the market and not the decision-maker any longer. I soon realised that it was a fear of rejection and a slightly dented ego that I needed to manage. I also needed to find the opportunity, sell my skills and embrace being new and unknown. The risk of embarrassment was high as with any new venture… and I didn’t have to wait long. 

On applications my answer to ‘Age’ seamed to be the ultimate door slammer. No response could have been the instigator of my anger but I think the ambiguity was the real cause… not knowing. Was I paranoid? It’s time to apply the same patient maturity that I employed at work.  

I found that the magic of the telephone isn’t totally lost in this era of email and texting. Contact people in the organisations and charities were mostly happy to engage and explain the exhibitions, volunteer opportunities or classes. Although I have had to adopt the role of a newcomer and find my place, I managed to keep my mouth shut at all the appropriate times and avoid sounding like a know-it-all. 

My search for purpose and a sense of place after retirement continues but I’ve gained greater awareness of what I need to do and found the direction to start the journey. I’ll share the organization that, in my experience, engaged with new volunteers or members in a respectful and professional manner. These include: Art Gallery Society NSW, AIDS Council of NSW (ACON), Cancer Council NSW and City of Sydney Libraries and of course COTA.

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