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Retirement Is A Waypoint, Not The Finish Line

Retirement Is A Waypoint, Not The Finish Line

Once upon a time—which is to say in the 1950s—you retired when you were in your 60s. You got a gold watch, perhaps to signify the value of your few remaining years. You moved to a retirement community to live out those “golden” years. Then you died.

Now, things have changed. In the twenty-first century our life expectancy stretches to our nineties, especially for women. We are fit and connected and vibrant. There are millions of things we want to do. And their last thing we want to do is move to a placid community to do nothing but play golf with people who still think they’re living in the 1950s and have one foot out the door.

For us, retirement is not the finish line it might once have been. For us, retirement from a long term career is simply another point of reference—a time to consider what we have done, what we have learned, how high we can jump from the foundation we have created. We don’t need to start all over again learning the ropes—unless we want to. We can skip over the steps we learned years ago. We can use the distilled experience we earned over the decades--to start a new business, to help someone younger see around the corners, to write a book. We can do whatever gives meaning to our lives. Those of us who had long term careers and who are lucky enough now to be financially secure are ready to soar.

You ay not feel like this on the day you retire. On that day, you might immediately feel as if you have been cast adrift, and are heading toward some kind of invisible uselessness. People will ask you what you do, and you will say, “I was a person of accomplishment, but now I am retired.” People will then turn away and you will feel bad.

We went through that. Then we rebelled. Rejection was a ridiculous response to the achievement of being among the first large group of career women to reach retirement--after having challenged society to give us a place in the working world in the first place. Enough of people trying to isolate us, to put us back in that outsider box. We had been a part of the larger world and we planned to stay there. We started to do concrete things--like coming up with the idea for Lustre--to change things and to put our cohort on the map. That made us start feeling better about ourselves.

Once you are post-career for a while, you too will realize that retirement is not the last step before ascending to heaven. And you too will get your mojo back. And figure out something purposeful and fun to do. Until then, relax. Not forever, but take as long as you want to figure out what is next. And then forge ahead.

The first step to having the world recognize we are still in the game is to recognize it ourselves.


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