So you’re facing or experiencing retirement. It certainly is an event that stirs mixed feelings. On one hand, you can relinquish the day to day grind of having most of your best hours consumed with a job and experience a new found freedom. On the other hand, you may have a little anxiety about leaving an activity that gave you some purpose.
Decades ago, when many of us entered the workforce, work served a different purpose than it does for many who start this journey today. Most likely, today we would encourage a young woman to follow her dream and pursue the career path that suits her best. In the 1960s when I was graduating from high school, that was not the mindset. I was a decent student with good grades, yet no high school counselor guided me to applying to a college; male classmates with similar and even less impressive grades did receive this advice. Having a mind that enjoyed deep thinking and getting lost in words I announced to my parents that I wanted to go to college and study philosophy and writing. I recall my father’s response as though it was yesterday: “We are not of the aristocracy. If you want to continue your education you need to do it in something practical, like nursing or teaching.” And so I stuffed my dream of exploring the minds of profound thinkers and writing the next great American novel to attend nursing school. Actually, I was fortunate to do that as most of the girls in my neighborhood dropped out of high school to marry and nearly all the adults in my parents’ circle thought it was wasteful for a girl to get an education as she was just going to marry and have kids anyway. My father thought it was okay as my nursing education would come in handy in the future as I raised a family. The thought that I could have a serious career was never considered. I think that perhaps there were many girls at that time who had similar experiences.
And so our generation of women married and had children. At some point, out of necessity or boredom, we sought employment. In some cases, we may have returned to careers that we shelved to tend to our children. Few of us could afford the cost and time of obtaining college degrees, and most of us had to consider our family responsibilities, so we took the jobs that didn’t demand special qualifications or interfered with our family responsibilities. Often, those weren’t the types of jobs that were exciting, fulfilling, rewarding….but they provided the extra funds to remodel the kitchen or put the kids through college. If we found ourselves single or divorced, these jobs provided the paycheck that enabled us to survive.
For many women of our generation, our interests, dreams, and talents were put on the back burner as we went through the motions of daily work. Have you given thought to what interests, dreams, and talents you stuffed away during your time of employment?
Although retirement or a reduction in work hours can stir some anxieties and sadness as we lose contacts with people we’ve enjoyed, income, and a comfortable routine, it can open new doors for us. We now can find the time to rekindle old interests that have been stuffed away for years, expand activities that we’ve dabbled in but never had the time to indulge fully, and explore those things that we’ve always said we’d love to do if only we had the time and energy. You can finally start that online antiques shop, write the novel that’s been floating inside your head for years, take that trip to Paris, breed dogs, start practicing on that guitar that’s been sitting in the attic, take the art classes that you’ve pined for, pull out the unfinished craft projects that are stored in the basement––basically, you can pursue those things that truly spark an interest in us and challenge us to use talents that have been begging to be set free for years. We can rediscover the true, unique individuals we are.
So if retirement is on your radar screen or a reality in your life, take time to be alone to reflect on those talents and interests that have been dormant for years. They don’t have to make sense or be practical, they just need to inspire and challenge you. Rediscover the you who has been put in the closet as you fulfilled the responsibilities of employment.