When you think of retirement, what images come to mind? For me, it always was an ocean, a sunset, a palm tree.
Well, I have all three right out of my bedroom window, and it did not do the trick. So, what are the options? In thinking about retirement, I divided people into three levels of work/leisure:
(1) Those who are happy to play golf or bridge, read a book, spend time with grandchildren, garden, cook, attend a class, volunteer a couple of hours a week, go on a cruise once a year. They are definitely retired.
(2) Those that are semi-retired: They do some of the above, but they also have a part-time job or their volunteer activities entail responsibility they cannot shirk, perhaps as active board members.
(3) Those who have an “F” in retirement. They may have tried the life of leisure for thirty seconds and did not like it and just continue what they have always done, but at a different schedule or different position. Within that group there is a whole new category: the retirees who have re-invented themselves into a new type of full-time worker.
I recently got an email from a doctor who had operated on my husband many years ago and with whom I have maintained a long-distance friendship. He wrote that his skills as a surgeon will be waning as he is aging, and since he has never developed any other skills or interests, he was wondering what he could do next. Reinventing yourself presents the chance to experience a whole new way of being, thinking, learning, living — so the questions to ask oneself are the following:
• Think of some of the happiest times in your life, when you felt most fulfilled and productive. What were you doing then? What made you happy? What skills were you using? What interactions with others were you having?
• Were there people you admired or envied and wished you were in their shoes? What were these people doing?
• Did you have fantasies about yourself in some wondrous adventures like when you were young? What did you dream of being?
• When you read a newspaper, magazine or journal, what do you read first? What draws your immediate interest besides what you need to read professionally?
Now, when you put all that information together, do you see a pattern? Something maybe even in your unconscious — that road not taken, that dream unfulfilled. We don’t have to become experts at some new ventures, but we can take classes in subjects we were curious about, go to events and meet people whose interests could match yours, volunteer in an organization that has nothing to do with your previous work. In other words, you will be living on a new learning curve. What fun is that!
You will happily flunk retirement when you do something that gives you that proverbial dopamine kick. This feeling of great pleasure and satisfaction when you do something that gives you a high, a little adrenaline circulating in your blood, will make you feel alive.
This is not advice. This is to help you become aware of options — all equally valid:
• Move quietly and happily into a comfortable old age,
• Do a bit here and there, just enough to stay tuned, or
• Get out of your comfort zone and re-invent yourself.
We all have default settings for the way he have lived our lives and the choices we have made. Here is a new opportunity to re-examine those default settings and either remain constant or try something new. To paraphrase Socrates: Only a re-examined life is worth living. Good luck!
“Doing It Better” columnist Natasha Josefowitz proves she is truly flunking retirement. Her most recent book — her 20th to date — was named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2013.
“Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without,” a collection of Josefowitz’ poems chronicling the loss of her late husband, was called a “hard-won, heart-wrenching collection of poems” by the American book-review magazine.
“A beautiful book of sad, funny and relatable verse and a comforting companion for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one,” wrote Kirkus Reviews. Josefowitz’ book is available on Amazon.com and at Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave. — Staff and contribution