Retirement — A Perfect Storm
We live through different stages in our life and along the way goals, purpose, perspective keep evolving.
We start from the exuberance of youth having a basket filled with infinite opportunities, and a life that stretches forever ahead of us. In our youth, there is no shortage of engagements, each one having a purpose, that carves up the outlay of our time.
A large block of our time goes into learning skills that will support our wellbeing in future. We go to college, engage in the study of a subject so as to earn our living. Another part of our time also gets spent actively seeking out a life partner. Procreation, after all, is the secret agenda of genes that are the hidden Puppeteers in Control.
In those youthful days, we are also in the company of fellow comrades and share similar goals. We have a sense of belonging; we have a tribe.
The journey through our days in youth is purposeful and the steps we take each day, each month, each year bring us closer to what we set out to achieve.
The end of youth is marked by the graduation day, and we start the career building phase of our life.
The start of a career is an exciting period. Career building is also a time of hard work. We seek stability and want to rise among our peers leading to a career with more responsibilities, better job security, and needless to say, a better income. Initial stages of a career may not be easy, but we are filled with the drive to reach goals and feel like having a definite purpose.
During the earlier and middle part of the career building phase, we will also find a life partner, buy a home, have a family, all requiring substantial investment of our time. Our careers become our identity, we work hard, we advance, we raise a family. Moments of our days are always filled with some activity.
Life stays busy, there is little time for reflection, and in the wake of our business, years pass by.
Slowly we approach the middle or later stage of our career. Working tirelessly, we made a niche for ourselves. We have a stable position and are respected by our peers. All feels well and there is no tear in the fabric of space and time.
Then one day there is a surprise — someone organized a 60th birthday celebration for us. A party that has the unintentional consequence of waking us up from our slumber.
A realization dawns that we are getting old. Along with that a few other thoughts come marching in. An idea begins to gel that our time on earth is limited. We also realize that someday we need to phase out our working life, and…
…one day we will be RETIRING.
In the growing realization of getting old and needing to retire, hints from incoming signals also add to. We find that it is becoming harder to stay in the mainstream, keep up with new technologies and innovations. We know Fortran but now Java is the rage.
We also feel the push of the younger generation elbowing in, there are also subtle hints from the party goers. Their looks are saying that it is their time to have more responsibilities, have more opportunities to travel, and whatever else they think are the privileges of being higher on the totem pole.
With the present act coming to an end, a host of questions creep into our consciousness — What will be my identity during retirement? What will hold meaning and purpose? What will fill in for my (few) work friends? What will we do with the time affluence?
That is then the trauma of transitioning into retirement hits us.
All transitions are hard but the transition into retirement is a notch above the rest. It is a perfect storm — we will be leaving so much behind of what work meant; we are old and suddenly there is an awareness of aches and pain that were there but were fell in the category of meh; we are mortal beings; whatever we do next will be the last act; and the icing on the cake is that we have no clue what we are going to do next.
It has been a couple of hours into your surprise 60th birthday party. People are starting to leave for their cubicles and the crowd is thinning out. People who volunteered for the cleanup are starting to collect the trash.
Finally, when the 60th birthday celebration comes to an end, you slowly walk out of the room feeling as if you have no clothes on.