Retirement, Here I Come!
by Raghu Krishnamoorthy, My Next Season Client
Yes. It’s done.
I am retired! Announced, forms filled, parties hosted, hands shaken, tears shed, and hugs exchanged.
I have retired from GE after about 25 years in the company, and about 36 years of working altogether. As I receive notes of congratulations, reminiscences of shared experiences, thank-you’s for the occasional good deed I am supposed to have done from people I have touched or mentored, I find this all surreal.
Or is it? Am I ready to “retire”? Am I ready for what that really means?
One definition of retirement is “the act of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.” Another (perhaps more authoritative, since it is from Merriam-Webster) is: “withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working life.” Other experts further break retirement into economic retirement (you are retired if your spouse thinks you are—i.e., you are no longer earning!), psychological retirement (you are retired if you think you are), or sociological retirement (you are retired if others think you are).
If retirement means that I am going to “cease” working, and fade away into the sunset, and stop earning, I am not ready for that. My wife, for sure, says we cannot afford that. So, I guess I am not economically retired just yet (though I confess I have read and reread the article on “12 discounts available to retired seniors” a dozen times—I must say, that Tuesday $3 matinee special at the local cinema for seniors looks most appealing!).
If retirement means that I am going away on travel to far-faraway lands, linking arms with my wife and watching the sunset, sipping Pina Coladas, I struggle with that too. My mind is racing too fast to slow down, my life is full of incomplete or unfulfilled projects. For 36 years, like most corporate professionals, I have been going a million breathless miles an hour . . . and suddenly to decelerate down to nothing is just not me. I guess I am not psychologically retired then.
Nor am I ready for Friday night bingo or the weekend Tai Chi class. I am not ready to quit coloring my hair black to look younger, I am not ready to sleep at 8:00 p.m. or get up at 4:30 a.m., I am not ready to sit on my couch, legs up on the coffee table, watching TV all day long. Also, I cannot think of swinging the club on the local golf course . . . I have never learned to play that darned game, despite spending thousands on little-to-show lessons!
Well, I guess this means I am not ready to retire!
What I am ready for then?
What if, for me, retirement is not about shutting down or slowing down, but speeding up? What if my best and most important work is not in the past, but is yet to come? What if my future is about discovering my own and independent identity, not defined by some other identity? What if, as I step out of the work I have been doing, I discover an opportunity to step into life?
When I start thinking about a different notion of my future than “retirement,” I realize that my retirement is not about a challenge to “stop,” but an opportunity to “start!”
For most of us, in our life’s proverbial “pie chart,” often the sliver that’s the thinnest is that of “self” . . . with work, career, family, etc., occupying far more space. “Self,” under normal circumstances, is the residue of what’s left in life when everything else is taken care of.
But now, I am afforded the opportunity of expanding that sliver—of rediscovering myself, for myself. What this means, I don’t know; where this would take me, I don’t know; how I would approach this, I don’t know. All I know is I am stepping into my future with a sense of adventure.
As someone once said, the only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Retirement, here I come!