Friday, March 30, 2012

Retirement: A Time for Discovery and Building the Pathway to Your True Self

I have to ask, how did I get to this new place in life where I am now an official retiree?  When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, retired people had white hair, wrinkles, wore white socks and sneakers and rocked in porch chairs.   They were senior candy stripers, volunteers or the ladies who sat outside in lawn chairs watching everyone go by. 

In the last 15-20 years, we’ve seen fewer retirees in their 50’s and 60’s as companies less frequently offer pensions.  They oust the people who may be due them within a few years and replace with younger, cheaper workers.  It’s all about money, one way or the other.  If you are a retiree with money and resources- life is good…better…usually.  You have to establish your inner compass and know where you are going…for the rest of your life. 

The over 40 crowd is growing every year, but the senior group hasn’t found it’s voice and purpose or organized to elevate their image and place in society.  Our society doesn’t value elders, unfortunately.  A lot of talent and heart goes to waste. 

My father retired as late as he could, in poor health, and died a couple of years later at age 69.  For him work was life.  He once told me that if things on the job are okay, then life is good.  He meant that.  He’s of a different generation, one that was on the job 24 hours a day.  They worked hard to get to retirement and to earn their pension.

I’ve read some people die shortly after retiring; it is a phenomenon that bears looking at.  I think you can lose your sense of balance and struggle to define a new purpose and place in life.  This leads to an internal struggle and heart wrenching search.  If you are lucky and/or prepared for it, you find where you belong and delve into new passions.  You find different energy in your heart and a new way of looking at life and the world.  We need to celebrate these years.

When I worked, that was my identity.  When I was no longer tied to an allegiance with a company…a career…I felt compelled to construct another identity.  I had to understand who I had become and where my purpose lay.  I’m retired, not dead. 

I’m young…in my estimation….isn’t 50 the new 40 or something like that?  Not that I’m 50, mind you, I’m just saying.  I am in my late 50’s.  I see myself as growing and developing; ripe with potential and promise.  Retirement is not slowing me down.  Quite the contrary, I’ve developed other interests and talents that I never had time for before.

Retirement is rebirth and our chance for a do over.  I know I am lucky to be able to leave the office behind at my age.  Every once in a while I yearn for a job to report to…I know, that’s weird.  However, I’ve worked full time since I was 17 and graduated high school…that’s a lot of years reporting to someone else.  The new reality and routine takes adjustment.  Mostly I’m trying to learn who I am and what I need. 

This is the first time in my life I’ve stood still long enough and had opportunity to reflect on where I’ve been, where I’m going and what meaning my life has.  And damn it, I’m going to make the best of it.  There’s no one checking up on me, evaluating me or hindering the creative part of me that needs to make a contribution.  I am my own person.  I am in charge of me.

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