My Identity Crisis

I really don’t like the word retirement.  This quote from the Huffington Post sums up my feeling.

“Think about the actual word “Retire”. Retire that computer; the software is out of date. Retire that race horse, his days at the derby are over. Retire that Quarterback, his arm is shot. People shouldn’t be retired. If you look up “Retire” in a thesaurus here’s what comes up: Retreat, Surrender, Depart. That’s not any mode I want to be in. This part of our lives can be filled with possibilities instead of killing time until we need long term care.”

For years I struggled with “retirement”. Oh, I was busy to be sure. I volunteered at a local history museum and at Sun Sounds of Arizona. I continued to enjoy my normal activities but felt that something was missing. And that something was my identity. But why did I even need a new identity? I think it has to do with wanting to feel productive, valued, and having a competitive spirit.

My journey to a new identity began on one of our long drives to the Bay Area. On many such drives, I asked my wife if she was thinking about going back to work. She always said no. However, I never believed her. I expected that one day she’d announce that she was returning to work. She’d finally admit that she missed the lunches and dinners with her colleagues. That work was still her preferred way of making friends.  I don’t know why (maybe just through sheer repetition), but on this particular trip I turned to her and asked: “You’re really happy aren’t you? You truly don’t want to go back to work.” Duh! It only to me 3 years to figure that out. I hadn’t moved on while she had. I still was tied to our past work identities.

The good news was that I finally understood that my wife has always been an artist. Retirement liberated her. It provided her with the time to more fully develop herself and her art. The bad news was, as happy as I was for my wife, I was still suffering with my identity crisis.

Over time my volunteer duties at the Cave Creek Museum expanded to include developing and maintaining their website. I discovered that I really enjoyed it! So I began to look for other opportunities to apply my new skills. This eventually led to my idea for Retirement Journeys. Once committed (i.e. making peace with fear of failure), I spent 3 months building the site and launched it on January 6, 2015.  And with that launch, I also launched my new identity  – website developer, blogger and podcaster!  Best of all, I no longer see myself as that retired old race horse put out to pasture (even if it included a stud fee – dream on). I have now successfully transitioned into the next phase of my life of which work was just one phase of the journey.

In looking back, I wonder why retirement has been so easy for my wife and so difficult for me. Was she more ready? Do women in general have an easier time because they are so good at relationships and perhaps don’t have as much of their identity tied up with their work? I don’t have the answers. All I have is our respective experiences.

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4 Responses

  1. Williamma says:

    wow, awesome article.Much thanks again. Really Great. Whitehall

  2. Rosemary maher says:

    Enjoyed this article and the website.
    I have been retired for 4 years very happily.I am pleased you verbalised my thoughts on identity crisis and cocktail,party conversation etc.
    People hang on your every word when they consult you professionally. After retirement,they are no longer seeking your gems of wisdom for themselves. So how interested are they in what you have to say?

  3. Michael reardon says:

    Just getting into retirement and the identity issue looms large. I loved what I did and I was good at it. I went out on a high. I have found some of the retirement books seem to think we can’t wait to ‘stick it to the man’ and find our true selves. It hasn’t been like that for me. In my experience the womenip I know have been better at creating and maintaining non work networks and take these into retirement. Not so for the men. Not unless you play golf and that’s not for me.

    • tedcarr654 says:

      It may take time to settle into retirement and that’s OK. Hopefully there’s come a time when you don’t see or refer to yourself as a retired or former xyz. Instead you’ll say I am a (in my case blogger & podcaster). That sounds and feels better to me. Best regards

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