I just retired after devoting 43 years educating children in our public schools. It is with great humbleness that I ask what should I do now? I am used to being so involved that I forgot myself each day. I am a fish out of water. I do not know who I am because I have not known myself. I feel lost. So far, I fill my days with meditation, yoga, reading sewing, cooking, sailing, and sharing life and good times with my dear husband and all our family and friends. However, the world is heavy upon my heart and soul. Why do I feel afraid and so lost?
You said that as a teacher you had been so involved in teaching that you forgot yourself each day. That habit of 43 years is deeply ingrained and it only stands to reason that it will take some time to change. Now even though you are devoted to meditation, deepening relationships, recreation and reflection, you are not only working on forging a new spiritual identity, you are also going through the feelings of sadness and grief over the loss of your old teacher self. Because even though you described your teaching years as forgetting yourself, that was in a spiritual sense, on a more superficial level, you were etching in a temporary and partial sense of identity as a teacher. With that role finished after forty years, it makes sense that you would feel lost until your true self emerges and becomes fully functional.
But you are doing all the right things to encourage your core self to come into focus, you only need to recognize that there is a simultaneous grieving process going on as well that you need to honor and allow to heal in time. Furthermore, it may help to look upon those teaching years as a beautiful, valuable and even essential step in your spiritual growth. Your teacher self may not have been your essential self, but it was a legitimately significant aspect of your worldly self, and was a major channel through which you loved, served and helped your fellow beings. That means something, and if your attitude is to regard your entire professional life as the segment of your life where you forgot yourself, then it will exaggerate your sense of sadness beyond what is natural. In truth as your spiritual self emerges, your old self is not negated or rejected, it is simply expanded to cosmic proportions to fulfill its latent potential.