Finding an identity after retirement

OK, you’re retired.  Now what?

For many people, their job defines them.  People ask what you do after you’re introduced and most people tell you where they work and what their job is.  But after retirement, how do you define yourself?  Here’s how one executive describes the experience.

About a month after I retired, my husband and I attended a black-tie charity dinner with a couple of old friends. We introduced ourselves to the other couples at our table over glasses of bubbly. As we dived into our grilled-shrimp salads, our new acquaintances kicked off the conversation with the usual question, “So, what do you do?”

After years of being typecast by my profession, I was excited to have a new answer: “I just retired a month ago.”

My dining companions seemed interested at first: “Wow, so what do you do now with all that extra time?”

I rattled off the list: “Gardening, biking, reading, lunch dates….”

My friend Tom jumped in, “That all sounds like stuff you don’t really have to be retired to do.”

“Yeah, but I don’t have to hurry to squeeze it all in anymore. I can just take each day slowly. In fact, I don’t even get out of my pajamas before noon these days!”

Tom shook his head. “You’re still in your pajamas at noon? I give it six months until you’re back at work again.”

By the time we got to the beef tenderloin and Cabernet, I noticed the conversation was going on all around me, without me. It was mostly about work.

Quite a few people who retire find second careers as consultants, or get offers to work part time in the fields where they are experienced.  Others throw themselves into charitable work or follow the hobby that they never had an opportunity to get really good at before.  A good friend of mine took a photography course and now is a commercial photographer.

Thanks to vast improvements in medicine, we are living longer, more active lives than ever.   The opportunity to live a “second life” sounds like great fun.

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