It happened again the other day. Someone asked me, “How’s retirement going? What do you do with yourself?”
I stammered a response. “Oh, I’m busy….you know, tennis, errands, church stuff, tutoring”.
Now to be perfectly transparent … that last part was fake news — I’m not tutoring these days and my church stuff has lessened during the summer months.
And did I really use the word, “errands”??? I may as well have said, “I watch Netflix” or “I’m into Hannah’s season on the Bachelorette.” Not descriptors of a productive life.
Retirement for me has brought an identity crisis of sorts. But It turns out I’m not alone.
Joy found this article from Forbes which compares the identity crisis of retirement to that which we experienced in adolescence.
The author calls it “Starting Older“. We don’t feel old, but we are definitely not young. We are asking ourselves,
Who am I anyway, after all this? What kind of work do I want to do now? What is the point of my life now? What kind of stimulation do I need, and what kind do I want to avoid? What have I had enough of and what do I still yearn for?
“The process of confronting these questions –and finding the answers–has all the disruptive hallmarks of an identity crisis.”
But let’s not forget the good news here. Unlike the prior generation, we generally have 20 years or so post-work – we are living longer. Plus, we are generally in decent health. We GET to start older – which, with the proper attitude, can be exciting.
We just have to find our new-selves. Did George Bush realize he would turn to painting or Jimmy Carter to house building?
Also, contrary to our adolescent selves, we have a lifetime of experience to draw upon and hopefully some great friendships. We are a work in progress.
Just don’t ask us that dreaded question, if you don’t mind!
Joy here –
I couldn’t agree more! I hate when people ask me what I do with my time! I try to structure my day as much as I can, but lets face it, there is a fair amount of downtime. There are a lot of hours in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In the beginning it’s fun to sleep in, not be listening for the alarm to go off, but that wears off rather quickly. I haven’t slept late in years! I’m lucky if I stay asleep all night without the help of Melatonin or CBD oil. (check out my earlier post on insomnia)
Last year was my experimentation phase. I volunteered at an equine center working with disabled kids, refreshed my Mah Jongg skills, tried new recipes, played Scrabble late afternoon accompanied by cocktails (this activity I kind of like!) I can’t say my life is meaningful or that I have purpose (lofty goals to be sure), but what I did accomplish is knowing me better, figuring out what makes me happy and, more importantly what doesn’t. We are on auto pilot for so many years that the abrupt halt is a hard one, and all this time that I was waiting to have is now put neatly on my doorstep with no instruction manual.
The good news, as Barclay says, is that we are in good company with many Baby Boomers to come. My mission is to figure it out as I go along, to get to know this person I’ve been married to for almost 42 years, and to be available when needed for friends, for family, for neighbors.
The next time someone asks you what you do every day in retirement, throw them for a loop and tell them you’re working on a cure for cancer! Who’s to know and it makes your life sound oh so meaningful!
Not everything we do has to be meaningful and important. We’ve worked a long time and deserve a break!
Your plan for retirement is your own and if it doesn’t satisfy you in year 1, hopefully, you’ve got many years ahead of you to figure it out!
Enjoy the ride
xox Barclay & Joy
You know those funny old folks in the greeting cards? This will be Joy and me.