Entry #6: September 26, 2017 – Post-traumatic Growth?
Two years ago I was preparing to leave my office and head to my classroom. Just as I was grabbing some materials for my students, I saw an alert on my computer: “Active Shooter.” Within minutes, I could hear gunshots coming from somewhere close by.
I was the only full-time faculty member in the office area. Five part-time faculty were in the same area. I told everyone to get down on the floor in their offices, turn out the lights, and lock their doors. I did the same in my own office. After the shooting was finally over, nine people were dead. Those of us who were trapped in the building where the shooting had occurred were escorted out of the building past stunned and injured students. A few days later, I attended the funeral of a student who didn’t survive.
While our members of our entire community were traumatized–some much more deeply than others–most of us did our best to move forward. Yet traumatic events change us. What we experience changes who we are and how we see the world. Much like a carving on an oak tree, events we experience are forever imprinted on the fabric of our lives.
I advise other people to develop a clear picture or vision for what they want their best life to look like before developing a plan to get there. Most of us draw from our life experiences when creating a vision for our next life. Some of our experiences are more painful than others, but nonetheless, they have contributed to who we are today.
As I reflect on my plan for retirement, I cannot help but think about how some of the more traumatic events in my life have influenced who I have become and the work I’m passionate about at this point in my life.
Because of earlier experiences in my life, I know what it is like to feel powerless and silenced. Today my work involves helping others feel empowered to live their best lives and to have a voice. When I retire and am embracing my encore career, I will be doing similar work.
If we live long enough, most all of us will experience our share of grief and trauma. With appropriate support and perspective, these experiences have the potential to lead to growth. In a 2016 Huffpost article by Carolyn Gregoire, the author refers to this potential as post-traumatic growth.
Growth is something I value. I wish it would always present itself as a gentle embrace. However I might not pay attention to growth opportunities if they didn’t come as a fierce storms that demanded my attention.
I look forward to using my life experiences, my passions, and insights to the fullest as I move full steam ahead toward retirement.