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Reflections: Transition Through Retirement

Why are transitions so difficult?
By Glenn Mangurian BS, MBA and Joanna Cain, MD

Years ago I read the best-selling book by Gail Sheehy, Passages. That book built on the work of Daniel Levinson, The Seasons of a Man’s Life. Both books taught me that transitions are part of life and anxiety is part of transitions.

Well, I just made another transition from “baby boomer” to “senior citizen baby boomer”. I just became eligible for Medicare. How can it be that a baby boomer now is eligible for senior discounts at the movies? I’m not sure I like it. Some transitions like aging are beyond our control. Others we choose. Most of them are difficult. But why?

Transitions usually involve moving from the known to the unknown. They are the process of leaving the past and accepting or embracing the future. Transitions are about endings and new beginnings. I have an expression about my transitions.

“I am no longer who I was and not yet who I am becoming. I am a work in process.”

We are all works in process. It is not that all transitions are inherently difficult (although many are). Rather, the story about the transition that we create often triggers anxiety. 

For me, it is time to create an enjoyable story of my new age status. I choose to make mine an adventure story. How will you write your story when the time comes?  Shouldn’t you begin to create that story now?

Reflections from Academic Medicine:

In medicine and science transitions are the norm. We experience anxiety over the continuous change in knowledge required to stay current. Also, we experience transitions with our patients as they face serious or chronic health issues.  Somehow it just doesn’t feel like the tough truths of life’s transitions should apply to us who help steer others through our teaching, research, or care.  Rather, we should know what to do from our experience and knowledge.  But we don’t know it all, do we?

After decades devoted to making a difference for our patients or for humankind, who will I be? Discovering who we are becoming might be a mystery but we are the heroes of our own story.  Who else would be?

Reflections on Transitions for You

  • Think back over your past transitions that were enjoyable and relatively easy? Why were they that way?
  • How about the difficult transitions? What made them difficult? How did you move through those transitions?
  • What current transition are you in or approaching? What can you learn from your past transition experiences and apply today?

Glenn Mangurian (MBA, UMass Amherst) is a semi-retired business consultant new senior citizen.  He spends his time consulting and teaching leadership as an adjunct faculty at UMass Amherst and Lowell.