AU's Retire Well program can help articulate your vision of retirement, consider factors that may impact your satisfaction in retirement, and provide tools to design a strategy for a successful retirement.
Sharon Metcalf began her career at American University in the fall of 2008. I interviewed Sharon, the Senior Director Strategic Partnerships & Programs, at the School of Communication in early February, as she was cleaning out her office and preparing for retirement, “deep in the middle of transition,” as she put it.
Sharon, an avid outdoors woman, shared her plans leading up to the decision to leave a job she loves for a future that still includes spending time at AU but also consists of hiking, skiing, kayaking and hitting the trails by foot and on horseback on a regular basis.
Iris: How did you plan for your retirement, and choose now as the time to retire?
Sharon: I’ve loved working at AU since 2008 and thoroughly immersed myself in the campus community during the past 12 years. So, it wasn’t an easy decision to leave. But I began thinking about retiring a couple of years ago as I watched others successfully take the leap and have time to pursue new interests outside of work. Financially, I decided to wait until I turned 70 and qualified for full social security. When I reached that benchmark around the end of 2019, it felt like the time was right.
Iris: What was it like to share with friends and colleagues that you have decided to move on to the new chapter?
Sharon: It wasn’t easy because my colleagues are also my friends. I miss seeing and working with them on day-to-day projects, but I will continue to socialize with them outside of work. Over the past year, we’ve laid the groundwork to make my departure a smooth transition. Others have assumed various roles to continue the Dean’s Intern Program, lead AU’s Films Across Borders series, and manage external and internal strategic partnerships.
Iris: How do you feel about leaving a full-time post?
Sharon: It’s been harder than I thought because I’ve enjoyed being able to spearhead ideas that bring recognition to AU and allowed me to work with high-profile partners from around city (i.e., National Geographic, NPR, Washington Post, NBC, AFI, etc). I wonder if I can still be a player and make a difference without a title and a role that represents institutional resources. I’ll miss welcoming SOC’s new Dean, helping faculty create events around critical issues in the news, and collaborating with colleagues across campus to tap into their expertise on any given topic.
Iris: What hobbies and new opportunities do you plan to explore?
Sharon: I’m really looking forward to spending more time outdoors in all seasons and to resurrecting old friendships. I’m about to drive up to Canada to ice skate and cross-country ski with friends as part of their Winterlude festival in Ottawa. After that, snow permitting, I’ll take the time to leisurely drive back through New England, ski at Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont, and visit former colleagues along the way. It’s incredibly liberating to freely make these kinds of open-ended travel plans without work constraints. First time ever for me.
Iris: How do you plan on staying connected to the AU community?
Sharon: I plan to stay connected in a myriad of ways. I’ve been an advisor and mentor to AU’s Beekeeping Society, so I’ll be back to help tend our campus hive on MGC’s green roof. Come spring, I’ll join in for Campus Beautification Day to plant more pollinator-friendly flowers and spiff-up AU’s gardens in preparation for Earth Day. As a former nutritional consultant, Andie Rowe has asked me to present a smoothie-making demonstration for AhealthyU that is scheduled for February 19 in the Spring Valley Building. And I look forward to attending campus events and forums ‘just as a guest’ without the stress of scheduling panelists or making opening remarks.