Wednesday, May 13, 2020

And What Do You Do, Now?

I’ve written a lot about the familiar cocktail party question: What do you do? For retirees, this can be an especially challenging question. I encourage people to have an answer to this question before their first day of retirement. I make it mandatory that they talk about more than what they just did.

And so, I got to thinking about my answer to this question: “I write and speak on the social and psychological side of retirement.” Most people understand what this means, and if they’re retired or close to retiring, they often want to learn more about my work. I enjoy talking about something that other people find interesting.

However, if I’m being honest with myself, the pandemic has changed what I do. I had eight speaking gigs cancelled between now and August. It’s too early to make the fall and winter schedule, but it’s very likely social distancing will still be necessary. Bringing together large groups of people may not be in our near future. And so, If I’m being realistic, I’m not speaking about retirement. At least not now.

To continue saying I write and speak on the social and psychological side of retirement is like saying I’m a stay-at-home mom, except that my three children are not home. Yes, I did that, but it’s not what I’m doing now. Similarly, yes, I wrote a great book on retirement and I speak about retirement, but it’s not what I’m doing now. There needs to be evidence of what you say you do.

Perhaps the pandemic is a good time to reevaluate just what you are doing, or want to be doing. Your standard response to, “What do you do?” might not fit you anymore. Maybe you’ve outgrown it. Or maybe this is a good time to experiment with other ideas. Maybe this is the time to let go of the “safe” answer and try some other identities.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of Designing Your Life, state, “How many different people, roles and opportunities have you imagined for yourself before you picked the role you are in today?” They encourage us to “remember how expressive, fearless, and open you used to be—before you got so serious about being the one person you turned out to be.”

It’s been said that retirement is a “roleless” state. Yet, it can also be the perfect time to expand our thinking and imagination—to try on new roles and see how they fit. I’m going to use this break from being a “retirement expert” to focus on some of the other roles and opportunities I have imagined for myself. I don’t need to remain so serious about the one person I turned out to be. And neither do you.

Copyright 2020. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.