Your Voice

Retirement: The final frontier

  • Print

Liam McGill

Liam McGill. (Photo courtesy of Goldberg & Jones)

I recently retired after practicing family law for 25 years. I enjoyed the practice of law, but as you can imagine, my job had its share of stress and anxiety.

I once heard that highest stress job in the world is a goalie on a soccer team: fans watching your every move, all alone out there with nobody to blame if you give up a goal. Being a divorce lawyer comes in somewhere below that on the scale, but you get the point. We assume a lot of responsibility for our clients in every case we sign on for.

Early in the game, I found that the stress of the work was formidable. There were some cases that you brought home with you on weekends and were the first thing you thought of getting up in the morning. The worry and anxiety found its way into other areas of my life. I wondered what I could do to find some relief from the stress.

One day I was reading the paper and saw an ad announcing a breathing and meditation course on an upcoming weekend. I called the number, talked to the volunteer about the content and signed up for the course. It was put on by the Art of Living, a nonprofit NGO that had chosen as its mission to teach these meditation techniques to interested individuals. I didn’t really have any experience with the group or their techniques, but I decided to give it a try.

The SKY Breath Meditation course was conducted in person over a weekend. There was a group of about 15 people, and through the weekend we learned how to do the breath work at home. All together, it takes about 15 minutes in the morning to complete. I would do the breath work every morning before work, and it had an immediate and important impact on my day. I started each day with a calm and peaceful mind.

The practice allowed me to touch base with that part of me that is undeterred by the trials and troubles of the world. You basically gain access to that serenity in your mind and with that you can face the challenges of the day with the best possible attitude. It was easier to deal with the work. I had a clearer perspective; calmness of mind became my preferred mindset.

When it was time to retire from the law, I was a bit wary. I liked my job and enjoyed the company of colleagues at work. I had become accustomed to my identity as a lawyer. Slowly but surely, one step at a time, I retired on my 25th anniversary with the firm. The burning question remained: “What next?”

See also: Resting Your Cases: Thinking about retirement? Lawyers give advice about money, goals and happiness

The fun part of retirement was easy. I picked up playing the ukelele, which has been a riot. I had forgotten how much fun music can be. Starting from ground zero, I am a work in progress, but time is on my side. Another upbeat pastime has been pickleball. It is a great game for “boomers” of all ages. You can always find a game, and it gives you a good workout.

The part of retirement that was more of a challenge has been to find a way to give back to the community. Like all of us, my career has had an impact on many people, both clients and colleagues. Regardless of the outcome of any particular case, I used my skills hoping to leave a positive impression in the process. I think we all work in our own way to make things better.

My hope was to find a way to continue being a positive force in a way would be meaningful. When it came down to it, I was looking to use my abilities to make things better, just like during my working life. I looked at many volunteer positions out there but struggled to find the right one for me. I wanted something within my skill set and that would have a meaningful impact.

After considering the options, I decided to become a teacher for the Art of Living. Earlier this year, I applied for and was accepted into the Art of Living Teacher Training course. I spent two weeks at the Art of Living Texas Ashram in Uvalde, Texas, where I went through an intensive program learning the methods and practices needed to be a teacher. I am now a certified Art of Living Teacher teaching the breathing practices what were so important to my career. I hope to share these tools with others so that they can experience the peace I have found in their own lives.

For all my colleagues contemplating retirement, know that there are many opportunities and activities that will fill your life with fun. You can also find ways to use your abilities in meaningful ways. Bear in mind that the thing about stress is that it doesn’t retire; it has a tendency to find us. It’s like you don’t have a case to worry about, but the mind will find some other situation to fret over. So consider learning a meditation technique that will help to ease your mind.

For all of you with more time in the trenches, consider meditation. A way to find a calm mind in the heat of battle was invaluable to me. If it was there for me then it can be there for you too. Soldier on.

Liam McGill is a retired Oregon bar member and certified Art of Living teacher. He can be contacted at [email protected]. is accepting queries for original, thoughtful, nonpromotional articles and commentary by unpaid contributors to run in the Your Voice section. Details and submission guidelines are posted at “Your Submissions, Your Voice.”

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.