After 17 hectic years in the Greater Toronto Area workforce, five of them with the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), Jennie Das is giving it all up.
The 56-year-old is retiring June 28 and moving to the Sarnia home she and her husband John bought two years ago. She plans to grow vegetables, care for her father-in-law, and support her grown children as they journey through their own young careers.
“There’s always mixed feelings about something like this,” she says. “It’s a new stage in your life and you’re not sure what that new stage will hold for you, so there’s ambivalence in that sense.”
Das’ ambivalence is relieved somewhat by the fact that her husband will be retiring a day before she does.
The couple planned it that way, as they’ve planned many of their major life decisions, Das says.
“We are intense. We worked hard during our working lives and maybe didn’t give some of the other priorities in our lives the attention they deserved. That’s what our retirement will be about,” she adds, creating balance over time, if not in the day-to-day grind.
Das has been director of finance for OACS for the past five years; prior, she worked almost 13 years at the Toronto District Christian High School in finance and admissions.
Intensity comes easily to Das and her husband. Both self-admitted Type A personalities, they don’t take many decisions “too lightly.”
Now it’s time to restore the balance, to create space in their lives to cultivate friendships and family relations, Das says.
Das says she managed through her hectic career and life in the GTA, and the 11 years before it raising a busy family, by “finding synergy” in the various aspects of her life.
“The advice I have for young people now is to find the places where the various parts of your life can intersect,” she says. You can even create those intersections, she adds.
She chose to work in the high school when her four children were attending it, for example, extracting a synergy between her work and her family.
Sometimes family members help the process, she adds, by moving closer, for example, as her own mother did.
“It’s been a privilege to work in the various settings I have, to rub shoulders with wonderful people who have believed in the same ideals for our families that we have,” she says. “I don’t think you find that in too many settings.”
The other advice Das highlights as she prepares to exit the workforce is to invest in education before family, then maintain skills by volunteering while you are raising a family.
Also invest in re-education if necessary; Das says that’s partly what helped her re-enter the workforce “almost as if I had never left” after her children were old enough.
Now Das embarks on a new life lesson.
“How do you give retirement your all?” she asks. “Well, we just have time to cultivate more friendships and spend time with family.”
Das will plant a garden, rely on less money, and devote her energy to new synergies.
“Our years on this earth have a number to them, and we want to know we spent them doing things that matter to us,” she says. “For my husband and I, we feel this is a good move for us as a couple.”