Elusive Introductions

What changes take place when you need to introduce yourself to new people after you have begun the transition into retirement? Last month, I met a woman who arrived at a course I was instructing, who seemed to be evasive when it came time to introductions. I wondered why she had come to the course and if I would learn more about her over the next two days.

We connected for a brief but illuminating moment at coffee time. I learned that she had retired from a long and illustrious career just seven months ago. She also revealed the struggle she was experiencing in searching for the next steps of her path. What resonated for me, was the tangible and felt sense of both anxiety and anticipation in what might come next. I was startled by my own recognition of the mixed emotions she described and the fear I have had that no one else will understand this aspect of the experience.

Resting on the laurels of a stellar and brilliant career that may have spanned anywhere between thirty and forty years matters not to anyone but you once it is finished. I have noticed some people tune right out as soon as you utter the word, “retired”, and others launch into a diatribe about why they could not even think about leaving the work world at this time. Some people are curious, though, and express genuine interest in what you might do with the time during your day. Conversations either end at this point or move to safer topics. This often leaves me with a vague feeling that unless I can define for myself a role that clearly projects future contributions, I am somehow less than I used to be.

Ironically, the anchor of my past career seemed, at times, more like an albatross while I was working and while I knew this transition to retirement would bring some identity challenges, I have yet to figure them out. I find myself paying much closer attention when someone who has retired also introduces themselves in any social setting. I realize that I unconsciously rely on learning about someone’s professional or vocational role when I meet someone. My search for better strategies for social introductions continues.

5 thoughts on “Elusive Introductions

  1. I have experienced in Europe, they never ask what “you do” in a social conversation. Work is meant to be a corner of your life, not the cornerstone! I did not realize this culture of introducing yourself and leading with your occupation might be a North American phenomenon!

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