Calaveras Enterprise

What does retirement mean now?



For the fortunate among us, retirement is an option that may be included in our aging process. For many others, this phase of life may be an opportunity to re-evaluate our working life.

As a youngster I had the impression that retirement was the ultimate goal and reward of working consistently somewhere for someone, which led to the much anticipated “Golden Years.” When my grandfather retired and was presented with his golden watch, I felt my father/his son’s disillusionment: Is THIS all he gets for decades of devoted service?! (My father, in turn, explored all opportunities to become a self-employed, innovative professional with more risk involved.)

With each generation, society’s work standards, basic economy and values change, which is what makes every person’s retirement period as unique as their working life. With today’s lack of job longevity and security, a family’s increased mobility and national financial uncertainty, no one’s retirement is guaranteed.

Travel, golf and bridge parties are no longer stereotypical retirement lifestyles. Many people will never quit working; either for financial reasons or by personal choice.

Come to find out, working and retirement do not have to be mutually exclusive entities. Getting older does not mean one becomes lazy, disinterested or too tired to contribute to society. It may just be a time of personal adjustment.

Redefining your boundaries, like the hours worked or type of projects accepted, could be one way to change your work life or slow yourself down a bit. Specializing in your preferred area is another option: Continue to do what you like, and start to let go of what you don’t.

My husband sold his business to retire eight years ago, and yet he still works part time. I think he enjoys being of service to others, needs structure and is reassured that there are funds incoming, not just outgoing… “to pay for our next trip,” he tells me. Also, working gives him a sense of purpose, and the option to stay involved in his field of expertise, while he still can.

Webster’s definition of “retirement” includes: to withdraw from circulation, to move back, to go to bed; and therein lies the challenge! Most of us don’t want to simply stop moving. The Third Act may be the time of life to re-evaluate what our work actually means to us.

I am a writer, a painter and a home decorator; all activities that I love and am not wont to “retire” from. I do take less jobs now, do less physical labor and work with people I want to work with. I am very fortunate and extremely grateful… and rarely idle.

Retiring from work may be like retiring from parenting: The job description changes but hopefully never ends. It evolves and ideally becomes less all-encompassing, and sometimes there are even rewards for your years of hard work (like grandchildren for example).

I spoke recently with a seemingly wise, active older woman who still enjoys her work, when called upon, and accepts the jobs she wants to do. Meanwhile, she is thankful for the interests and activities that she didn’t used to have time for. She says, perhaps aging is no longer about achievement, but more about enjoyment.

May we accept this time of life as a possibility to explore change.

Linda Lawrence is a proud Calaveras resident for 31 years who is finding The Third Act to be a very interesting, rewarding, and challenging phase of life, and definitely worth discussion.

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