“Don’t you want to know what I do?” I asked.
“No”, he answered.
“But what I do is who I am,” I replied.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because I’m important. I have status. My job tells you about me,” I declare.
“I don’t care what you did for a living,” he responds. “In retirement, we all must redefine ourselves.”
And the conversation comes to an abrupt end, because I have no answer, except to say, “what I do, my vocation, my work, my title, has always given me a position in society, why not now?”
One of the adjustments I’ve had to make in retirement is to drop the cloak of identity I had when I was employed. In America, our jobs describe us, and we wear that mantle as a coat of armour so all can understand who we are, what we represent, and how far up the social scale we believe that title or job takes us.
But in retirement, we lose that covering and all its trappings. In fact, we become a clean slate. We have to learn how to interact with people differently, because no one cares what we ‘did’ before. That title I bundled myself in doesn’t work any more, and I am forced to redefine myself as to who I am Today.
This can prove to be a challenge, and the adjustment is often uncomfortable at first. That is, until we realize the freedom we gain once we lay down the expectations and beliefs that we worked so hard to maintain.
What a freeing experience! In retirement I can be ME. I can wear a pair of ratty jeans and a stained t-shirt or an expensive gown covered with jewels, but who cares? Most of us show up on the retirement dance floor out of step with the music until we learn to boogie to a new beat.
It seems to me that retirement is a leveling field, as well as a discovering adventure. What we thought we were, may not be who we are at all. And what we ‘did’ before isn’t what we want to do now. Most of us are relieved to be rid of previous demands. It may take us awhile to adjust, to rebrand and redefine. Unpigeon-holing ourselves is like cultivating a garden. You have to decide what to plant, and then water and hoe and fertilize that new growth. After all, we are cultivating a new life that has yet to be explored.
The gates of the future open up to us when we shed those old rags and don some new and better fitting outfits.
Ain’t it grand to get old?