Kitchen Table Talk

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut

My career life has been on a roller coaster for the past few months. Changes, never easy, are unavoidable. For the most part, I am very happy with the final outcomes in my career.

An unexpected consequence, however, is that many of my acquaintances now think I am “retired.” My husband retired a couple of years ago, evidently adding to the confusion. When thinking about retirement, I always come back to the same dilemma: I have no hobbies.

Does that sound sad? My life has been so happily full of family and a career I love that I never thought about hobbies. My husband plays golf, loves puzzles and has all kinds of projects going on around the house. My sons love soccer and snow skiing. I do not have an athletic bone in my body, am not very competitive outside the work world and am completely without skill when it comes to anything crafty. I can’t sew, knit, crochet, play bridge, paint, throw pots, embroidery, cross-stitch or quilt. I don’t particularly like to shop.

I love to travel, but having a “travel” hobby will require a lottery win.

Just as I was hovering on the side of depression, I ran into a friend in Target who retired several years ago. When the conversation turned to my “retired or not-retired” status, she gave me some insightful advice.

“We all assume when we retire that we need to continue to do something we have always done, or something we know we are good at that we haven’t had time to do because of working,” she said. “I didn’t have any hobbies either, and, if I wanted to continue to do what I was doing at work, why retire?

“Then someone told me that the answer is: Do something completely different. Find something that sounds interesting that you know nothing about, and do that. You have to learn. You have to be engaged, and, many times, you meet people completely different from those you have known before in your professional life.”

That makes a lot of sense to me. I had no idea I wanted to be a journalist until I started taking classes in journalism. I had to learn how to do it. Why not try something new?

To further enhance my someday retirement plans, I also learned about the free classes for Tennessee senior citizens. In our state, people age 60 and up can audit classes at state colleges and universities free of charge. No tuition, no fees (except special fees an individual class might have), no grades, no tests.

At Pellissippi State, the process is fairly simple. Fill out a student application, indicating that you are non-degree seeking, get a form in the cashier’s office to verify your age, and then register for the class or classes you want to take. If you are 65 and older, you can also choose to take classes for credit for a $70 per semester fee. Both auditing and for credit classes are on a space-available basis.

At the University of Tennessee, Peggy Love, assistant registrar, can help at [email protected], or follow the steps for 60 and older at

So, even if those lottery numbers don’t roll right, it looks like new worlds await when I do decide to take the retirement plunge.

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