When people talk about ‘retirement,’ what do they really mean? I don’t have a good definition for my life after I officially applied for ‘retirement’ last year.
To retire once meant that a person withdrew from work. In earlier times, a person who retired may have quietly lived out their remaining years and perhaps engaged in some leisure activities before expiring.
When people ask me what kinds of leisure activities I’m now enjoying as a retiree, I have a difficult time knowing how to respond. My leisure activities aren’t much different now than when I was working. Yet I think of myself as still working – just working at things I choose to do rather than things I must do. I’m not sure what retirement means today.
Retirement as a Time of Renewal and Rediscovery
Some people refer to life after work as a time of renewal or rediscovery. I think those definitions certainly fit a lot of what I’ve experienced so far.
I see myself as finally free to rediscover facets of my life that had been put on the shelf for all the years. For example, when I was working full-time, I read primarily for information or new insights. Now I actually have the luxury of reading for pleasure; this pleases me a great deal.
I’m discovering little things about myself that I felt had been lost – everything from a renewed desire to create a more orderly environment to a renewed desire to express myself in more creative ways.
I’m also learning how to value time in new ways. I have primary control over my time. I can choose to include flexibility in the schedule I create for myself. Each day feels like part of a long-awaited renewal and rediscovery process.
Reinvention as a Possible Way to Understand Retirement
Reinvention is another term that is sometimes used in place of retirement. For the majority of my career life, I was involved in education – either as a researcher, an executive director of an educational foundation, or as an educator. Even though I still see myself as an educator to some degree, I’ve also started reinventing myself. I’m somebody different today. I’m an advocate, I’m a change-agent, and I’m a small business owner.
I’ve heard the term 2nd Act as a way to describe the new realities of life after leaving our full-time careers. I think this term is similar to reinvention and fits as well. After I used a longevity calculator and realized it was possible that I could live another 30 years based on my lifestyle, I started thinking more about what I wanted my life to look like for the next two or three decades.
We Still Need a Way to Describe Life Beyond Our Necessary Working Years
In reality, most of us will live much longer than in previous generations. The old notion of withdrawing to a life of leisure for a few years is no longer as desirable as it once might have been. I think we’ll eventually come up with a new term and a new understanding of life beyond our necessary working years. In the meantime, some of us are serving as pioneers for a new age of opportunity.