Retirement by Design

Hannah Poe

This week, we have an interesting guest writer who I admire very much. She is a teacher at heart and by profession. She is also highly energetic and an amazing rolemodel for living life over 60, and then over 70, to the absolute fullest. I consider her to be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise, as they say. She also happens to be my mother. I’m lucky to have been able to observe firsthand how she’s managed her life after finishing her career. She hasn’t really retired at all. Instead, she’s simply created the life she’s wanted. She’s made up her own rules along the way.

So, pay attention!  School is in session.

-Brannon Poe


By Hannah Poe

Have you noticed that some people are successful in retirement but others flounder indefinitely? Is money the key factor? Is it about health? The answer is “yes” for both questions. Both financial security and good health are necessary for optimum enjoyment but these are merely two building blocks for starters. Designing your own retirement requires a bit of trial and error. It differs from a long vacation because vacations follow a more predictable pattern known as the Four R’s: relief, rest, restoration, return to work.

Retirement is unpredictable because you don’t know what you will miss from your former work life…until you miss it! When you discover what you miss, there will be a hole to fill and some creative problem solving will be needed. It won’t mean that you should not have retired (although that thought might occur) because with any major change, there can be discomfort and unexpected challenges.

When I retired, I made all the rookie mistakes. I accepted too many requests for my time. I underestimated the loss of community that my workplace had provided. I found that it took more self discipline than I had anticipated. It was difficult to invent new healthy routines for myself!

I wrote out my bucket list. I tried several new things: classes at the local university, YouTube craft instruction, exercise classes, volunteer jobs. I discovered that I particularly liked bagging groceries for the food bank. Why? I liked the physical effort of lifting cans, choosing beans and also liked helping people with such dire needs. Understanding why gave me the clues that I needed to look for in this new life.

Eventually I learned how to say NO to requests for my time and how to say “I am sorry but I won’t be able to continue volunteering here. Something has come up that I must deal with.” That “something” was the realization that I was giving more time than I was happy about and starting to resent it! Some jobs were too dangerous for me, as I learned working with an animal shelter. Our animal population at home did not need new additions and I was at risk of heart break. One learns from experience and plans often need adjusting and revising. My creative solution for helping animals was to help with fundraising, away from the temptation of adopting. With time, one can figure out ways to eliminate deficits from the past, create new routines and experience new pleasures. Best of all, time allows one to get and stay healthier than seemed possible during a stressful career. The adage “habits make the man,” can be examined, re-evaluated and possibly changed for the better.

This process of examining options for this new life took longer than I had anticipated but finally after trial and error (field research), I was clear about my personal needs and wants. I wanted creative challenge, physical activity, financial balance and community.

I heard about a new program in ceramics within commuting distance and the professor, Gary Clontz, was said to be the “best” personally and professionally. He had graduated several ceramic artists who had gained national status from his program at Haymont School in North Carolina and he was starting a Professional Pottery Program in South Carolina. I could learn to throw on the wheel as well as the business aspect of ceramics. He taught marketing, how to use and maintain the necessary equipment, kilns, wheels and basic chemistry for mixing glazes. I could have a hobby that was self-sustaining, physical and creative. Perfect!

I was almost ready to take the plunge. BUT I was already 70 years old, which was daunting in itself!

To reassure myself, more research was needed. My husband and I headed to North Carolina to visit some potteries. In the first place we visited, we were greeted by a very friendly woman. She had tousled gray hair, strong bare weathered arms and wore a clay spattered apron. During the conversation, she mentioned that she had been a potter for many years and was 82 years old!

As we drove back, I reasoned that in 12 years, I too could become a good potter (it takes about seven years). It was time to design my retirement!


About Hannah Poe

Hannah formerly taught art to kindergarten through college-aged students.

Hannah now works about five days a week in the co-op ceramic studio that she and four other women developed. Their studio, pARTners in CLAY, is located at Wyatt Farms in Greenwood, SC.

There is a resident studio cat, chickens near the kiln shed, farm animals, plus a plant nursery and pond for natural beauty and inspiration. Her new community is the clay community which provides daily exchanges with talented clay mates and stretches to include ceramic artists around the world (past and present).

In three years, Hannah will be 82!


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