Talk about serendipity! I’ve recently started a blog called “Retirement Made Simple,” and suddenly, today, I stumble upon the best definition of retirement I’ve ever read.
“We don’t have to be who we were yesterday. We don’t have to live on auto-pilot anymore. You have permission to let go, spread your wings, and be who your heart is telling you to be.”
Isn’t that what the first day of retirement ought to feel like? We truly have the opportunity, if we can seize it, to make a clean break from yesterday. We are free of the perpetual rat race of work, commute, dress for success, bow down before the corporation, sacrificing our individuality — and maybe our health — on the altar of profit. We can, perhaps for the first time, live as the person we really are, or really want to be.
The above quote is from a blog post titled “You Have Permission,” over at a new blog called “Hippy.ish.” What an awesome blog! It’s written by a young woman who doesn’t fit the traditional image of a retired person. In fact, she’s not retired at all. She has a young child. She’s a person who is, as she says, “Chasing A Life of More Based On Less.” Her way of life and goals are not necessarily shared by most retired people. I think she has a lot of wisdom about “minimalism” to share with all people, retired and otherwise. The point is, we have freedom!
A clean break from yesterday. Daunting words, frightening or at least unsettling words, for those of us living life in a rut. Not ideal words, but the best I can come up with. Note that a clean break, taken literally or to the extreme, is not necessary, and not necessarily in our best interests. Change is always stressful, often frightening. For most of us, a measured transition, a gradual letting go, might be the better way to implement change.
A clean break does not imply a complete break. We can keep active the friendships we had at work. We can remain an interested observer in a lifelong profession, if we wish. But we aren’t required to do so. We are free!
Or rather, we have the opportunity of freedom, if we are able to seize it. Many of us, if we’re brought to the very edge of freedom, might choose not to fly. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Not for others to judge.
Some of us are among the fortunate few who’ve been flying all along, as real as can be. We might already have responsibilities to fulfill outside the realm of paid work. Or promises to keep. Taking care of family members or friends comes to mind. We might have satisfying roles at church or in the community that we intend to continue. We might already reside in our dream house! We wouldn’t change the status quo at all, except for not setting the alarm clock and going to our accustomed job every day.
I don’t count myself in that group. I’ve rarely had work I enjoyed. The job was mostly a grind, something I must do to earn a living, not something I would choose to do. In later years, full-time work consumed most of my time and energy. I didn’t get a lunch hour, or a lunch half-hour. I needed the weekend to recuperate and pull myself together for another week of drudgery. I suspect that’s pretty much the standard experience of the working person.
However, even if my life has NOT been satisfying or fulfilling, the prospect of seizing freedom is problematic. Do I even know how to fly? Do I have the courage to walk out the prison door when it opens? Now that I have freedom at last, what is it that I want or need to do?
We can expect barriers. Simple inertia. Laziness. Apathy. Poverty. Sickness. Fear.
We have choices. Some retirees, especially men, might sit down in the recliner and watch television until they die.
Family and friends will be uncomfortable with change. But most of all, I will be uncomfortable. Do I even have a clue what I want to do? I’ll press the issue one step farther.
Do I know what I’m called to do with the rest of my life? Sorry. The rest of my life is the wrong question.
How long is the rest of my life, anyway? None of us knows. Rarely can we see years ahead. The most I can reasonably expect is light for the next step. Those words are not original with me. “Light for the next step.” I picked up the concept at a weekend conference years ago. I’ve kept my eyes open for light ever since, but rarely have I seen it. Usually, I feel my way along cautiously in something like a fog.
We’ve come to the crux of the matter now. At every crossroads in life, what we need is discernment.
Retirement is no different. That’s a good stopping point for tonight. Discernment.