Sorting It Out: Retirement, Reinvention and a New Gap Year

Sam and DebbieEvery time someone asks if Sam has retired, I reply, “No, not exactly.”  And then I hasten to add that I am “not retired,” that I am still running Voxie Media, my book coaching, writing and publishing business. And that Sam and I are both writers.

But that’s kind of a mouthful to get out. What I mean is that we have intentionally jumped off the cliff that was our busy life in Washington D.C. And that we are continuing to reinvent ourselves. And we’re not really “old” yet. Just older.

So in that sense we are not “retired.” We are leaning forward, we are changing, we are learning as we adapt to a new lifestyle on the coast of Maine (with brief interludes in Brooklyn).

For the record, I hate the phrase “retired.” It is loaded with connotation, much of it negative. To retire, in a literary sense, means to pull back. I find that image unappealing. It scares me. If you’re retiring, then you must be giving up on moving forward, right?

To put it another way, you must be getting old.

Ambivalent about getting older

This particular post has been simmering for months. Clearly, I’m ambivalent about growing older. (I just turned 63.) I’m ambivalent about getting out of the game. For many years I was part of the tech crowd in D.C. I’ve traveled solo and spoken about blogging and corporate use of social media at tech conferences and corporate venues all over the world, including Australia, China and Dubai.

But it’s been a while since I’ve done that. My last big talk was in 2013 before a crowd of 3,ooo entrepreneurs at  the World Domination Summit.

So what’s going on?

I’ve been reading about baby boomers taking Gap Year time outs like ours, dumping their possessions and moving abroad, and, most recently, retiring and selling their family homes to start a new chapter.

All those things resonate with me. And in fact, except for permanently vagabonding, they are what Sam and I have been doing for the past 18 months.

Why I need my own Gap Year

I think what it boils down to is that I’m only just now starting my own Gap Year. Sam and I have argued about the length and timing of our “time out.” “It’s over,” Sam declared on Sept. 1, 2014. “I’m moving on to a new life.”

Well, I’ve been a little slower to process this reinvention thing. Where does my book coaching and publishing business fit into our new life? I’m still figuring it out. How can I reinvent Voxie Media so that “work” and my new “life” are seamlessly knit together?

I do know that, along with Sam, I’ve retired from the competitive rat race of life in D.C. Making a lot of money is no longer my main driver. Having “enough” money is, well, enough.

I know this all may sound a bit confused but I am a bit confused. I’m not anxious. Just pleasantly perplexed.  And as there will be no end-of-year wrap up post this year, I can tell you now that my singular goal for 2015 is to figure this out. How do I integrate writing, editing, coaching, and publishing, with volunteer work on Deer Isle, and a still unfolding reinvented life?

I’m working on a new comeback.

Question: “Are you and Sam retired?”

Answer: “Yes, we’ve retired from our life in D.C. We’re reinventing ourselves in a small community on the coast of Maine where we write and volunteer. I also work with people who are stymied by the writing process and want to finish and publish a short book. ”

That could use a better shorthand but it will do for now.

i know this is an imperfect blog post. To be continued.

Useful links

The Real “Why” Behind Selling Our D.C. Home (Sam’s blog post, Dec. 22, 2014)

Selling the Family Home Is Liberating for Many Retirees (NYTimes, Dec. 20, 2014)

Increasingly, Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Hit the Road (NYTimes, Aug. 29, 2014. Note: so far we haven’t been this radical)

The Case for a Midlife ‘Gap’ Year (Wall Street Journal, Dec. 8, 2013)

Photo: bearded and relaxed at WDS 2014 where “retirement” is a foreign concept.




5 Responses to Sorting It Out: Retirement, Reinvention and a New Gap Year

  1. Deborah DeWitt December 24, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    Having retired nearly nine years ago, I have honed my elevator speech to the following: “I have retired from paid employment.” We love living on the coast of Maine in such a welcoming community. We can still get NYC “fixes” when we need them, but we’re glad (and fortunate) to be able to leave the 12-hour workdays and hour-long commutes behind.

    • Debbie January 1, 2015 at 2:30 pm #


      Gracefully put: “retired from paid employment.” And also your detail of “such a welcoming community.” I should have said that more specifically about Deer Isle, Maine.

  2. Loren McDonald December 25, 2014 at 12:29 am #

    Thanks for the post Debbie! I’m about 5 years behind you and am at a different spot … but find that everyday I think a LOT about the next chapter in my career/life … that is not called retirement, BTW … I look forward to following your journey in 2015 and beyond.

    • Debbie January 1, 2015 at 2:28 pm #


      I love your phrase, “the next chapter that is NOT retirement.” I am going to hijack it.


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