Recently I wrote a blog post in which I observed that in many ways our 9-year old grandson was practicing being retired during the week he spent with us in August. Of course, it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, a throw-away line. Or was it?!
I’ve written at other times about the strange reality that we spend countless years preparing ourselves to enter the world of work: pre-school, school, post-secondary education and/or training, internships, etc. Then we work for 25-40 years – a long time, sure, although you’d be surprised how quickly it goes by! And then, given the remarkable increase in life expectancy, we actually may have an additional 25-40 years of retirement. Think about it: retire at 55 and live to be 95, retire at 65 and live to be 90. Retirement truly is a second career, and it’s entirely in your hands.
Bizarrely, all we are ever encouraged to do to prepare for retirement is try to ensure that we are financially secure. As I’ve said before, financial security is very important (and it’s also a huge service industry, as is the marketing of those services; just count the ads on TV for “wealth management”). But for many people who have made it to retirement with reasonable financial security – maybe for the majority – the question of what to do with this new-found gift of time once they don’t have to go to work every day has not been given a lot of consideration. Often none at all.
I have friends who simply don’t stop working, because they absolutely cannot imagine another life. This works for some people – in some occupations – but not for everyone. And at some point your body and/or your mind is going to say, “Sorry, I just can’t do this anymore.” Why not beat your body or mind to the punch and consider all your options for retirement in advance. How about well in advance; you can always revise your plan from time to time. Make a list of things you’d like to pursue when you finally have some discretion over what interests you pursue and how you use your time. Once you’ve got a list, consider getting some of these interests started before you retire. It’ll be good practice!
A recent blog post by a fellow blogger introduced me to a book by Julia Cameron that has a simply irresistible title: It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. Needless to say, I got myself a copy of the book immediately (with thanks to blogger, Molly Stevens, who is writing humorous posts as she works her way through the book). This book is aimed at retirees and people approaching retirement who may be giving some thought to exploring creative outlets now that they have more time. It’s got some intriguing exercises designed to help you explore your creative side(s) and, dare I say, remind you of the dreams you once had. A kind of, “where was I headed when I got sidetracked”? It’s the kind of book that will become a well-worn manual for living for some people and just won’t work after an initial thumb-through for others. But the concepts presented are worth thinking about, regardless.
For me, what is truly thought-provoking in this book is the table of contents. Each of the 12 chapters represents a week’s worth of discussion and exercises. But it’s the chapter titles themselves that truly resonate for me. Surely these chapter titles capture precisely what we all should be reviewing and renewing throughout our lives. Just spending time cogitating on how you would personally work on the message inherent in each chapter title is a worthwhile endeavour. Then you can write your own chapters, since they might be quite different for each individual. Here we go:
Week 1: Reigniting a Sense of Wonder
Week 2: Reigniting a Sense of Freedom
Week 3: Reigniting a Sense of Connection
Week 4: Reigniting a Sense of Purpose
Week 5: Reigniting a Sense of Honesty
Week 6: Reigniting a Sense of Humility
Week 7: Reigniting a Sense of Resilience
Week 8: Reigniting a Sense of Joy
Week 9: Reigniting a Sense of Motion
Week 10: Reigniting a Sense of Vitality
Week 11: Reigniting a Sense of Adventure
Week 12: Reigniting a Sense of Faith (in oneself)
What do you think? Do you need reigniting?! Does reading this list remind you of how small children naturally approach the world? When do we start losing some of that sense of wonder, that sense of simple joy? Are some of these characteristics more important to you than others? Have you lost touch with some of them? Can you think of simple ways to start reigniting those characteristics that are most important to you? And how do you suppose these characteristics are related to discovering your creativity??! … Isn’t it interesting how a simple list like this can get you thinking about your life and what you might like to reinvigorate or change? Enjoy!