Who says retiring is easy? You would think so when leaving a job in search of a new path and embarking on a life of leisure.
I use the word leisure because I believe that when you are doing something you truly love surely the word “work”, as an adjective, doesn’t apply. I have more than a few desires, some require effort, that I am eager to try. But there I go, defending myself for retiring again!
What I didn’t realize until now was how much the job I did for a living was intertwined with my identity. I mean, I used to sit back and imagine what I would do if I didn’t work (mermaid tale, beach, vegan cooking classes, fancy hat club etc), but that daydreaming doesn’t usually include time for self-reflection, self-analysis, the discovery of who I really am, or how others will see me differently and maybe, in some cases, treat me differently. These were things I couldn’t possibly have imagines (or didn’t want to).
When I introduce myself at a party people often ask..”and what is it that you do?” they are not looking for the answers~ beachcomber, international woman of intrigue, observer of the extraordinary or lady of leisure. On a few occasions, I have heard people describe themselves through their hobbies. “Hello, my name is Peter and I Iike to eat laundry detergent”, but usually people save this personal type of information for a second encounter, at least.
Institutions even push your career as identity when you are just a small child. The school system is always asking for full reports on what you want to be when you grow up and why. Who you want to be is never asked. I believe it’s good to have goals, but are passions and dreams, that don’t consist of a pay cheque, valid as well?
Well…I may not have known what I wanted to be, but at least I knew who I was and had the stuff to prove it.
Even the very idea of a name suggests that you are connected to your history and your family’s history. For example, many of the European last names from the middle ages on were occupational in nature, such as John Smith, describing a smith of some sort. Well it’s about time we got over these medieval notions. Ideas that have followed colonizers and the elite into different nations and communities. These names have nothing to do with who we are today and it’s a rarity that we ever follow in our father, or mother’s footsteps (no matter how much they want us to).
In some pagan circles, adults are initiated with a magical name. This name might only be used within the circle, but others may choose it for their online avatar. Is this name not a closer representation of who you are now than your given name? This is not to discredit ancestor worship, as I believe this is an important part of ritual, but believe these history’s live in our hearts whether we choose our ancestor’s name or not.
With interdisciplinary studies becoming more accredited and hobbies turning into tools to lead “instafamous” lifestyles that pay, we have to polish off our monocles and realize the multifaceted nature of the human entity. It is a rare person that stays at the same job, or even in the same field of work for their whole life.
Since leaving work I have also realized that I’ve been conditioned to please. It’s like Pavlov’s dog. Reward me, tell me I’m great and I’ll be forever yours. Jobs can provide a sense of self-esteem, pride and suggest areas to improve on, which are calculable through an outside lens and hierarchy. Leaving my job on my own terms forces me to set up my own value systems for how I judge my life and what I do. It is here that I believe self-care, self-reflection and positive reinforcement should become daily habit (or work, sometimes).
I’ve often talked to people who were scared of retiring and, though mostly sympatheticly, I would wonder “well what are we working for then?”. I also had the great opportunity to work in an artist-run centre where I met many retired people who make art and are now living their dream, sometimes for the first time in their lives. Their drive and eagerness to pick up new skills made me ask myself why “retirement” is such a dirty word in our culture. Why fear it? Own it. Heck, why don’t we give our self a new name at that time, and not Enid or Rosemary, how about “Thea the Seeker” or “Duchess of Felines” (whatever you like!).
In my own experience, when I told people I was retiring early, many were very disturbed at the idea. Well, I’d like to dismiss the notions of retirement as your one-way ticket to Netflix comatose or Tim Horton’s meet ups. Your self-work, self-care and discovering your new path is just as important. Hence my blanket fort, filled with every book I’ve half read over the last three years and a few new ones.
This is not to say that I won’t work anymore. I am just giving myself time to explore my interests and reflect on my past as I move forward. And there couldn’t be a more perfect time than January, when “Janus” the god with two faces looks into the past and toward the future. As a person who has previously crammed every moment of every waking hour with work, activities, volunteering and hobbies I’m opening up this new chapter in life with calm, peace and freedom in my heart.