With lots of hobbies and interests, I figured I was immune from the threat of losing my sense of identity in retirement. I’ve read this is common among men, but as a career woman, I suppose I’m equally at risk.
While it’s true I’m not bored, and I don’t miss the job or the stressful lifestyle, I do feel a sense of loss. Much as I like the writing of Brené Brown, who says we are enough simply by being, I’m never enough. I’m having a hard time letting go of the idea my life is only as good as my achievements.
I sometimes lack confidence, but I make up for it (or compensate for it?) with deep internal drive. One could argue I have a lot of baggage to unpack, but I like to put a positive spin on my shortcomings. My drive is the fuel that keeps me going when others run out of gas.
The writer Edna Ferber said, “Being an old maid is like death by drowning, a really delightful sensation after you cease to struggle.” I’ve wondered if that philosophy can apply to the loss of identity in retirement. Should I just chill out, enjoy what time is left and start the slow slide into the great unknown?
Probably not. I do not believe I’ve reached my full human potential, and part of me says never surrender. But another part of me is open to the idea maybe you have to give up who you thought you were to become who you are supposed to be. Maybe retirement was the only thing that could push me out of my comfort zone and into a future that is beyond anything I dreamed of.
Whew, kind of deep, but I think about shit like this when I am supposed to be sleeping.
I’m just entering my second year of retirement. The first year was a period of adjustment with no alarm clock and the joy of being free from all the crap that goes on in the workplace. This year I want to focus more on my transition to Donna 2.0.
In Donna 2.0, I see my tenacity as a good thing, my superpower, that can help me live a long and healthy life. But I’m not going to let it fill me with illusions about what it means to be successful. Maybe I’ll just take that word out of my vocabulary and use my superpower to liberate me from my own expectations, to do what feels good and see what happens.
Starting today! No lists, no goals. Just cupcakes.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.