Retired from the College of Media since May, 26-year office administrator Nickie Dalton is trying hard not to continue operating under the delusion she is on The Longest Vacation Ever.
That is, she’s still trying to shake that feeling that at any minute, it will all end and she’ll have to go back to work.
But it’s not a vacation, she keeps telling herself, it’s the start of a new, second life –
with goals to accomplish and projects to finally finish.
“I don’t really have a routine working yet,” she said. “It’s something I haven’t pinned down just yet. There are days I sleep in a little; I guess I haven’t gotten past not missing it yet.”
But that is slowly changing as Dalton drifts farther past her departure date and into a decidedly more satisfying retirement.
She said she’d like to find a balance between family time, personal enrichment and volunteering.
So far she and her husband Larry, who retired from Facilities and Services as a water station operator two years ago, have taken “mini” camping trips over the summer and have spent the fall watching Illini football at Memorial Stadium.
“It’s been a little different, both of us being here together so much,” she said.
Dalton recently started taking flower-arranging classes – something she always wanted to do but never had time for – and hopes to spend more weekends antiquing.
“I love antiquing and going to estate sales,” she said. “You never know when you’re going to turn up something interesting.”
Dalton said it’s difficult, after working in the College of Media for two decades (it was the College of Communications when she first started), to start each day from scratch.
“It was really tough leaving because I really liked the advancement team I was working with,” she said. “I really thought I was going to be there for a couple of more years, but somebody once told me, ‘You’ll know when it’s time.’ They were right; it was just time.”
She said she misses the contact she had with alumni.
“There are some amazing alumni and they’re always there for the college,” she said. “Media alumni are just great.”
And she misses using her work skills to further the college’s goals.
“It was just a matter of being available, caring and helping out,” she said. “I was proud to make an impact on what they did. If anybody needed something, I’d help out – and then try to go a little further.”
She said she enjoyed the variety of duties in her job description.
“My job varied most days from managing acknowledgements to alumni and donors, updating alumni and donor information on our database, scheduling meetings, and making travel arrangements,” she said.
“The task I loved most was helping with planning college events,” she said, which included convocation, honors reception, Chicago Alumni Reunion, Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism and Homecoming “when we used to host it.”
She hopes to find that kind of fulfillment in retirement – though with the option of occasionally sleeping in if she feels like it.
For now she’s taking in the newfound freedom and following the lead of her husband, who has a little more experience at not going to work officially.
“He stays busier than I do, but I’ll figure it out,” she said. “It’s just a little hard to get used to.”