Life while working was about doing – being productive. And retirement has been a bit about thinking I should be productive – and looking for the what-next. Until about a month ago. Discovering my authentic self (the flippant answer I gave to the “what are you going to do when you retire” question) is more about being than doing. And I need space for that. So I am clearing away. Resisting grabbing on (or getting a pet). Hanging with the void. Standing still for a closer look. Embracing the “not knowing”.
“The work I did is the work I know, and the work I do is the work I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m doing and it’s the not knowing that makes it interesting”
- Phillip Glass (avant-garde composer )
Retirement is not really the change. Retirement – stopping work – is a structural change. But it isn’t THE change itself. It’s just a platform for it. Distractions striped away, it’s an opportunity to explore identity without work or other involvements to define self. The opportunity to make real changes - personal, internal - that the frenetic work world seemed to preclude. The chance to work out those ways of being that could use a shift or a tweak … like cultivating a less in-head perspective and more creative and intuitive world-view. And sorting through all the pop-psych, spiritual messages, and positive affirmations. Contemplating how teachings such as “God exists within me, as me” fit in. What does that, and the plethora of other messages about love, truth, and wholeness that have been languishing in the background while I had my nose to the grindstone, really mean. Reconciling them with life as actually lived in the USA, this world, in 2013 and beyond.
Maybe you have answered these types of questions about yourself and your life – or they don’t interest you. In which case, do keep busy once you retire. But I can’t help thinking you’ll be missing an opportunity if you don’t dare to be bored at some point.