Styling A Modern Retirement
By Karen and Erica
The day after we retired, just like the day before, we were smart, energetic, interested, engaged, stylish, collegial, problem-solving women. The only difference was that, after almost four decades of working full time, we had retired. But there was a problem. Everyone looked at us--if they could see us at all--as if we had morphed into little old ladies who had lost the power to think and the will to live. What was going on?
Our colleagues and friends congratulated us, and many expressed envy at our good fortune. That made us uneasy. What exactly was our fortune? One day, we were highly sought after, even powerful, lawyers. The next, we were—what? Did we no longer have value? We were anxious and scared.
We missed work, and we understood why. We liked having colleagues and a support staff and a reason to get dressed up in the morning. We liked saying “I am a partner in an amazing enterprise”—emphasis on “am.” We liked having an office, business cards, scheduled calls and meetings, and we even liked leftover to do’s from the days or weeks before. We loved our jobs and we needed to mourn for a while.
But we still did not understand why, overnight, we had vanished. Of course we no longer had jobs, but to our minds those jobs provided the crucial foundation for the next step--using our experience in different ways in the same larger world. We were surprised that instead there were no roles for us in a world that seemed unready for what we had to offer. It reminded us of when we started our careers. Then, we were part of a large new cohort of professional women making our way in a man’s world, largely without role models. As we all moved forward, we invented the roles we wanted. Now, it seemed, we had to do it again.
We realized we were both feeling the same thing and decided to face it together. We talked to everyone we could find, we asked a lot of questions, and we listened hard. We read everything entitled "Retirement." We met a retirement expert. We interviewed for new jobs. We came to understand we did not want to work as we had before--especially as we could never get jobs as good as the wonderful ones we had had--but we wanted to be engaged in a purposeful relationship with the wider world. But we could not find a match. While there were new models for employment in the freelance economy, people did not seem to visualize retirees in those roles.
Our investigation invigorated us. We realized it was up to us to show the working world what we could do, and how we wanted to do it. Our circumstances have changed, but we have not. We are the same people we have always been. Our brains still work and our experience is valuable.
We have always liked a good challenge. Styling a modern retirement is the perfect next step.