This week, Materfamilias blogged about reaching the decision to retire. I use the term “reaching” advisedly, because these big life decisions often sneak up on us, like the proverbial bend in a mountain road. One minute you’re trudging along, eye on uneven terrain, the next, vistas.
It’s been a little over a year now since salaried employment and I parted ways. I am not actively looking for a job, and therefore call myself, “retired.” It’s an interesting time.
As context, both my career and my retirement have followed a slightly irregular path. As I’ve said before, I wound up a software executive – on a whim. Ha! I bet that’s a sentence nobody expects to read on a Saturday morning.
And, as may be true for many of my generation, I spent the early years out of college bumping through various Travel The World And Explore Your Soul situations. Even after I got my MBA, and therefore acquired a veneer of A Known Quantity and therefore got hired a lot, once I had kids I career flickered more, if you will. Stayed at home, consulted. Worked part-time, went back to work. Zoomed to vice president level, stepped out for a couple of years. Stepped right back onto the racetrack. Then off.
Retirement, for me, and I imagine for many these days, has little in common with the 5/days week on a train to the city, times 44 years, testimoniral dinner with gold watch, done, cue golf, that 1960s literature loved to ridicule.
In early months, you miss your work. I wrote about that for the mostly younger women at Corporette, here. Then, you start to focus on those things you didn’t have time for while you worked. I also wrote about that on Corporette, here. The best part of getting older is sharing what you’ve learned, right?
It has taken me some time to pick up non-work activities, tasks and goals without attributing them the same urgency and anxiety as paid work. But it’s happened, I think. And once that To Do list calms down, something else happens too.
It turns out that anyone who is not retired is too busy. Way too busy. Over-worked, overwhelmed, under-resourced. At least everyone I know. So you, the retiree, become the spare resource. And the world senses your availability, and starts to pull. Almost like someone installed a beloved but incessant vacuum hose somewhere in your front yard.
This is the moment when you really choose your retirement. When you handed in your badge you only stopped paid work. What proportion of your capability do you exercise on yourself, now, what on the asking world?
I don’t have the answer. There is no one answer, of course. Everyone’s different. I only know the words that have begun to speak in my mind.
I don’t want to be done living until I have lived some time centered. I want to give, I want to support, I want to do some part of my old job, I want to garden, to care for my husband, and to sit, in quiet. All of it, self-instigated.
I am not making up for what I never had, only for who I never was.
Retirement is when you cross your legs on the sofa, under your laptop. You relax your feet. You chose your pajamas, you kept that old college sweatshirt, you recognize what you see. Not from selfishness, nor revenge, nor pique, no pouting. But I think we’ve all got the right to plainly be in our bodies and our minds, without feeling a single tug. At least once.
Or maybe I’m just telling that to myself, because it’s what I always needed.
Have a wonderful weekend. No, have a wonderful day. You owe nothing, not even to Sunday.