Retired? What is that anyway? Webster’s definition is “to withdraw from, cease to work, cease to play competitively.” The keywords throughout the definition are “withdraw” and “cease.” WOW!!! I DO NOT want ANY part of that kind of label.
A very dear friend of mine recently said it right, and I quote:
“I want to go to the very end, screeching to the finish line, with a wine bottle in one hand, chocolate bar in the other and exclaim WOW what a ride.”
That’s how I want it to be for me. For me, to withdraw from life is never going to happen.
When a person asks me or someone else if we are “retired,” you can now understand why I would cringe. First, are they saying I am or look old? Second, because it seems to represent being superfluous in society. What I would prefer someone to ask, or better yet say, is how we are transitioning from one life experience to another.
What has caused me to write about this? While I was out with a friend, out of the blue, I was asked by a stranger if I were retired (As you can tell, I hate being labeled like that). I visibly recoiled at the question, to the point that the person then felt it necessary to explain why they asked the question. That only made it worse. They groped around for things to say like, “You’re only as old as you feel” and so on. (Seriously?!) You get the picture.
I listened politely (hard to do) and then asked what the word “retired” meant to this person. They blushed, verbally fumbling around for a bit until then finally they said, “Someone who has retired from their job.”
I find two things wrong with that answer. First, we never stop working; we just transition to another life experience. The other, in my humble opinion, is to be “retired” from everything in the truest sense of the word is never a good thing. What I hope they mean is I’m financially independent enough to allow for the to pursuit my passion.
Sadly, very few people will have that luxury these days for many reasons. One of the many reasons is they haven’t done a good job preparing for that opportunity -another subject for another day. But I digress.
I went on to address the individual’s initial question. The way I replied was, “To answer your question, I’m actively involved in a different phase in my life. I no longer have a traditional job, but I’m diligently engaged in reinventing myself. I’m working towards a new opportunity that I hope will be fulfilling and beneficial to myself and others. What that includes is a website that will encompass many aspects of what I’ve done in the past. It will offer up many of the things I’ve learned and advice I would give others regarding those lessons.” The look on that individual’s face after my explanation was priceless. It was as if I had transformed into another person before their very eyes. Don’t me wrong, I don’t mind being “retired”. I totally dislike that, to some, it means I now no longer have a brain; that I have “ceased” and “withdraw” from the world.
How do you avoid being labeled? How to prevent this looking, acting or being “retired” thing (no matter what your age )? I believe it’s very straightforward.
- Don’t ever allow ourselves to stop learning. When we stop learning, no matter where we are in life or at what age, we, in fact, stop growing, and our minds will atrophy. We always have something to learn or offer. An idle mind is such a waste on so many levels.
- Keep moving. That doesn’t mean we have to run a marathon every year or lift weights until we’re a competitive weight lifter; although if we’re so inclined then we should go for it. What I do mean is to stay physically active – walk, garden, dance or whatever we enjoy doing.
- Stay involved with your family, friends and your community. It’s so easy to not visit or enjoy someone’s company when it appears they’re too busy for us. Do it anyway. They will be thankful for it later, and we will be the better for it. Find ways to give back to your community. There are many ways to do that through volunteering or participating in community events or church activities. The simple act of going to a community sponsored festival or performance can enrich our lives, and it is just plain fun.
- AND PS: This applies to any age or your station in life.
Life will always be full of labels, challenges, and opportunities. It’s so easy to allow society to label what we are in different ways and at different points in time. I see that as an uninteresting and lazy way to live. I say don’t allow that to happen, be true to yourself, go for it and live every minute of every day with the label we choose no matter what challenges we may face.
All in all that simple, seemingly benign question, “Are you retired?” turned into an interesting lesson for both myself and the one who asked the question. That we are what and who we choose to be, not what society wants to label us.
Life’s journey continues…