Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked on several occasions why I am still working (part-time) when I am “supposed to be retired”. In a teasing type of manner, I have replied that I’m not dead yet and still think I have things to share and contribute to the world around me. And the responses that I have received back have been eerily similar.
Each person who asked me this question, told me that they thought that retirement was to be a time of rest and relaxation. And I had a strange sense that they thought I was doing something wrong by working. Perhaps they thought that it would interfere with my new retired lifestyle.
Many folks who leave full time work continue to work part-time, or try out other types of full time work that differ from their previous careers. It seems unrealistic to imagine a life where for, perhaps, as long as thirty or more years, one stops contributing in some way to the world in which they live. And, there are so many ways to continue to have purpose, provide value, and to feel like a valued member of our communities. Working is only one such strategy.
I often feel as though I am in a situation where I haven’t yet decided what to do with my life. I have been setting some goals, learning new skills, pursuing my passion for writing but I still have a strong sense that my next chapter has not yet to become fully formed in my mind’s eye. Working part-time, gives me the flexibility to earn some income while the vision for the next steps takes shape.
There are differences in my approach to working life now. I have the good fortune to choose when and if I will take on some work and can structure work to fit within my new lifestyle. I can work more at some times than others. I truly feel as though I am no longer a part of the long working hours culture and am able to achieve a level of happiness from my occasional work opportunities.
The badge of “busyness” that many of us ascribe to does not have the meaning it once did, nor do I have the desire or inclination to just be “busy”. Learning to meet other needs such as focusing attention on my health, spending more time with family and friends, choosing to take classes that teach me new skills and further my current interests are now my priority. I am able to pursue what really interests me and I find that just being able to do that, in and of itself, can be a joyful surprise.
But, I still like to work some of the time, and will continue to pursue professional development opportunities that I ironically I actually used to be too busy for. Many of the skills that I have developed over my career are easily transferrable and have allowed me to move forward to new opportunities. This transition has proven to be dynamic and multifaceted in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.
When I was ready to retire a couple of years ago, I had already begun a process of disengagement. Following a period of creative reflection to explore what I want to be in this part of my life experience, has led me to re-engage with the work world on my own terms. I appreciate that I am now able to take the time I need to re-develop my identity during this period of transition. When I pause to think about some of the conversations that I have had recently, I realize that I am quite content to consider myself, Retired but currently working.