Monday, February 20, 2017

Mary Richards' Retirement

Mary Tyler Moore's recent death brought back fond memories of Mary Richards, the leading character in the Mary Tyler Moore Show. For many women in the 1970s, Mary Richards served as a role model for growing up as a self-sufficient professional woman. 

I rarely missed an episode of the show, captivated by Mary's lifestyle and independent spirit. I imaged having my own apartment in Minneapolis, just like Mary. After graduating from college, I applied for jobs in Minneapolis, just like Mary. As many other women my age, including Oprah Winfrey, I wanted to be Mary.

In my mind, Mary Richards will forever remain the young, independent, and spirited professional woman, and best friend to Rhoda. Knowing how much I admired Mary in her 30s, I'm curious about what I could learn from Mary if the Mary Tyler Moore Show continued to be on the air for 30 years, long enough that we could view two seasons of Mary's retirement years. If we idolized Mary in her younger years, what could Mary teach us about living in retirement?

I think Mary would continue to live with flare, humor, and courage. I wouldn’t mind if she gained a little weight (like many of us) but I doubt that she'd be having a boring retirement. I don't think she would accept mediocrity. So, today when I decided to go cross-country skiing instead of hanging around the house, I thought, "Yes, Mary would be out here."  

What else would Mary do? I think she would direct her energy and talents toward something important and meaningful. She would be "Mary" in a different setting. She would realize that not all her work was accomplished when she finished her career, but that she can build a new drama, one that reaches a high point in her later years.

Interestingly, when I think of Mary Richards 30 years later, the question, "Did she ever get married?" seems irrelevant. Thirty years later, if Mary Richards was married, I believe she would still have her single character, just as women today benefit from having their own identity in retirement. Sure we want shared goals and a vision for our future as a couple, but we also need to have our single goals. We need to keep writing our own script.

What can Mary Richards teach you about the way you want to live in retirement? You are the playwright, pen in hand, now write your own new drama.

"We're going to make it after all."

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sabbatical Year

Most of us are familiar with what it means to take a sabbatical—an extended break from our regular work. The word comes from the Biblical concept of working six days and resting on seventh, the Sabbath. This custom is popular in the academic community and it's gaining traction in the corporate world. I'm proposing that it also has a place in retirement.

When I told a colleague that I was writing a blog post about taking a sabbatical in retirement, she was confused. "Is that a pre-retirement toe dip or post-retirement temp job?" Another friend offered her opinion, "Retirement is one long sabbatical." Neither of these fit with what I'm envisioning. Instead, taking a sabbatical in retirement represents a mindset—a way to take a break from the pressure to figure out retirement."

It might seem like retirement is easy. What's so hard about not working? How can you be stressed out from 40+ extra hours in your week? But then, just like any major life transition, change is stressful. In retirement, it's easy to lose our sense of direction and meaning. If you're dreading the question, "What do you do?" try answering, "I'm on sabbatical." If this feels right, you know that you're on to something good.

How do you design a retirement sabbatical?

It depends on what you need. For some people, it's best to have no expectations other than to observe and be. No assignments. Sometimes, more than you expect comes from just being. One woman, who talked for years about writing a book about home organization, finally wrote the book during her retirement sabbatical. Not because it was an assignment, but because she freed herself to spend time doing whatever she desired. Just so happens that writing was what she was drawn to do.

Other people prefer to have a more structured framework for their retirement sabbatical. This includes identifying specific goals and outcomes for the year. If this describes you, then consider the following questions:

What do you hope to learn?
What questions do you need answers to?
What would you like to accomplish?
What would you like to discover?
Where would you like to be by the end of your sabbatical?

When you grant yourself a sabbatical, you're giving yourself permission to take time to understand this next stage of life. And by giving it a timeframe, there's an expectation that you'll return to a "new normal" after a period of time.

A happy retirement isn't one long sabbatical, just as it's not one long vacation. Instead, it's a break now and then to reexamine, find your way, and make a fresh start.

Your sabbatical has been granted.
Enjoy. Be. Thrive. Grow.

Copyright 2017. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.