Retirement puts work in a new perspective. When I was working, the idea was that work was part of a career. You chose a profession or a calling and it defined your life and who you were. That was always the way I thought about it when I was young and getting started with my life. It pretty much stayed that way through my career although toward the end I found myself wondering about my choices. Was there a better way to manage my life and could I manage without a job altogether. And who was I anyway?
Still I maintain a pretty conventional outlook toward work. I couldn’t get over the feeling that my job defined me. Even when I was stimulated to consider the fantasy jobs I wished for in my life, I couldn’t get past the idea of a job and working for someone. Most people don’t have an independent income and need some way to support themselves. These days, the standard is a job, selling your time and talent for money. We like to rationalize that into a career or a calling but there is nothing noble about exchanging time for money and being dependent. A job is selling out a part of your life.
There is nothing wrong with this transaction but when we turn it into something noble and call it a career, your life gets perverted. Your priorities are all off.
Who are you really?
I was shaken out of that mindset by a comment on my post about career fantasies. Hansi said “Wait a minute. I didn’t have any stinking career. I’m not defined by what I did for 30 years. It was just something I agreed to do to support the lifestyle I wanted.” I’m paraphrasing and expanding his comment a bit but I think I’m pretty close. No bullshit about how much satisfaction and community value resulted from his work. Obviously value was provided but it didn’t define who Hansi was. He didn’t need the job to give his life meaning. When did I miss that lesson?
As a recovering career seeker, I wish I might have had a better perspective about work during my ‘career’. It might have saved me a lot of frustration and heartache. It might have given me freedom to be me. It might have changed my life and put me in a better place to manage my life.
As it is, my eyes are opening now as I try to design and manage a retirement lifestyle without the support from a job or career to define me. I am winging it but slowly I seem to be growing a backbone and taking chances both in ways to make money and ways to live. I still need work but no more selling out and no more career. I’m designing a lifestyle.