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Living the F-Word: It took me awhile but I just figured out this important thing

When we leave work, we also leave behind a sense of belonging — columnist Judi Straughan finds a way to get it back
Judi Straughan might be a bit worried about her police check, but she’s really looking forward to getting out and volunteering.

I'm about to be investigated by the police and I'm having nightmares. I know I'll end up in a darkened interrogation room under a bare light-bulb, sweating bullets, with Mr. Bad Cop breathing down my neck. I swear I'll cave.

Yes, I was involved in criminal activity once. Okay, twice. We used to play a lot of Truth or Dare when I was a kid. My nerves of steel chose Dare on more than one occasion. That was why I stole a 79-cent box of fabric dye from Woolworth's. 

The long arm of the law on that occasion was my CIA mother who easily discovered my covert operation and made me return the dye with a heart-felt apology to the store.

I know that'll be tossed in my face when I'm in Interrogation Room A with Mr. Bad Cop.

Now I don't want to get dramatic about this, but I will be investigated. There are some volunteer jobs that require a police check, and they should. 

I have applied for one such job and fully expect to get turfed when they find out about the infamous fabric dye caper. Let them never discover my influence in the Great Newspaper Heist, during which a bundle of Saturday editions was mysteriously turfed into a ditch by a pair of nine-year-olds who wanted to go to a movie matinee.

Volunteer Week, a short time ago, sent me searching for a good fit as I continue into my second year Living the F Word (that’s “Freedom” in case you’ve forgotten). 

Apparently, there are no volunteer jobs taste-testing chocolates, ice cream or beer, but beyond that, there are tons. I like being busy; I like making a difference. I have found one that is perfect for me ... I think.

My brand new, exciting volunteer position speaks to my commitment to everything local. Perhaps you haven't heard, but CKLU Radio that broadcast from Laurentian University for the past 30 years, has recently moved into the School of Architecture in downtown Sudbury. A whole new chapter in independent radio is about to begin. 

I readily admit, Sudbury does have other terrific radio stations with engaging on-air personalities. Yet, each station has its own mandate and none can probably afford to be as local with this community as CKLU.

I am now part of the Outreach Committee to spread the word that CKLU champions local and national independent artists. I am part of a group that wants to gain a wider audience for programming that will never be cookie-cutter. (I'll get off my soapbox now and give it a rest.)
What we lose when we retire, I now see with clarity, is both purpose and being part of a group.

In work, we had daily friends to share stories with. Thankfully, work groups can be replaced by curling or golf buddies, beginners bridge, book clubs, bocce, choir, billiards, card-making, urban poling, zumba, community organizations, boards — anything, really. 

I'm a bit of a committee nerd, but why fight where I'm drawn. It's clear to me now: The Holy Grail for retirees is the need to have a sense of purpose and belonging. Not very deep thinking, but true.

Here's a bit of trivia. Name the happiest country in the world. Ready? You're not going to believe this — it's the little snow-whipped country of Denmark. Most of the year, it's colder than we are. Why on earth are they so happy? Have they never heard of winter depression? 

One of the reasons is that approximately 94 per cent of them belong to clubs and groups. They belong. If that can keep you smiling when you're buried in a snow drift, that's good enough for me. Sign me up.

How did it take me a year of retirement to figure out the obvious? Just a little slow, I guess. 
What are your groups? If you haven't found them yet, grab a compass and get out there. Navigating, even in snow drifts, is easier than you think. 

However, if you run into an ancient pile of Saturday editions in a deep embankment, it wasn't me.

Judi Straughan is the former education co-ordinator at Sudbury Theatre Centre. In this series, she explores the challenges of being retired.