I’m on a mission to retire the term “retirement.” I’ll admit it – there are certain sociological and egotistic reasons why, when I left my life-long career three years ago, I found it increasingly difficult to face the fact that I had joined the ranks of “the redundant,” as members of the UK so tellingly describe that stage of Limbo in which an increasing number of retiring Boomers seem to be finding themselves these days!
Actually, “redundant” was how I felt! Suddenly I was (or felt that I was) so unimportant, so unnecessary, so useless, so potentially poor! Why was I finding myself frequently apologizing, and yes, not a little ashamed to admit that I was … retired!
And although I can’t attest that all Boomers who have decided to accept “the golden handshake” for one reason or another — and at an increasingly younger age — share my sentiments, I’m willing to bet that many more will admit having experienced ambiguities similar to my own.
First, there was the panic – the buyer’s remorse, as it were — the reality that I was no longer important or essential to an organization. What had I done? Did I make a mistake? I still had so much talent, expertise, energy to contribute. What had I irrevocably given up? Then there was the secret resentment that my replacement (who, of course, could never fill my shoes) now had assumed my title, my power, my glory, my salary!
And now how was I going to fill my days? No one seemed to need me professionally any more. All the e-mails stopped. The phone calls ceased. My calendar was noticeably empty of back-to-back meeting dates. I no longer found myself going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark!
And what about all those gorgeous, professional outfits hanging in my closet – many still bearing clearance price tags? When would I ever get to wear them again or share a snicker at someone’s fashion faux pas with a colleague? Horror, horror! What had I done?!
For years, I had fantasized about how I would spend my precious “retirement” time – gardening; organizing my books, DVDs, CDs; cleaning out the attic, the basement, the garage; walking six miles a day… everyday… rain or shine; re-learning German. Now all those personal projects that I had eagerly anticipated having the freedom to accomplish in retirement – suddenly they lost their importance, their appeal, their priority.
Now fast forward three years. At social events, when lunching with friends, spending time with family members, or chatting with colleagues, I no longer categorize myself as “retired.” Depending on my audience, I describe my new career as that of an author, a web site business owner and editor, a curriculum designer, an enrichment instructor, a supervisor of student teachers, a university instructor, a world traveler.
Admittedly, I’m more than a little fragmented at this point in my life. That’s because I find myself in a new stage of career exploration, “trying on” several new projects to determine what I really want to do for the rest of my life. What’s my new career? How am I re-inventing myself? It’s a great feeling having the luxury of choice. What do I really want to do, and when and where do I want to do it? And with whom? Alone, or with a partner? What’s my passion? What creates the “fire in the belly?” What excites me?
I don’t have the answers to all these questions just yet. You might say that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll do and who I’ll be when I grow up and grow old. One thing’s for sure – I’ve left “retirement” in the dust! I’ve retired retirement! It is no more! In its stead, this Boomer has replaced “redundancy” with lots of promising career adventures yet to be explored and embraced… or abandoned. The way stations on my newly discovered “yellow brick road” promise lots of future surprises. And who doesn’t love a surprise?!
by: Dr. Maria Langworthy
Photo credit: Shutterstock with added text “Retirement is not a destination … it’s a journey”