A Coming of Age Story
Life in my parents’ generation — in the 50s and 60s — was a pretty straight shot. It consisted of school, work, marriage, kids, retirement and old age. Today our trajectory is anything but straightforward.
Take millennials; they live longer with their parents (I still have one at home), have more education but less job security, postpone marriage and children, and plow ahead with no map. Who can blame them for not having a plan when everything changes so quickly. One day life is normal, and the next day it’s not. Suddenly democracy is up for discussion, a tiny virus causes a pandemic, and another war starts for us to agonize about in real-time.
It’s just as complicated for the boomer generation. We don’t have clear directions for our lives either, and certainly not for retirement. We are making it up as we go along, and hardly any of us are retiring full-time at 65, the once upon a time official retirement age. We work longer because we can’t afford to retire or because we want to continue, or because 60 is the new 40.
When we eventually retire, we are nowhere close to old age either. We have this whole life stage — it could be 20+ years thanks to medical advances — that never existed before. In fact, within the space of one generation, our life expectancy has increased by a decade. What do we do with this extra unscripted time?
I “retired” recently. I did it because I was close to 65 and had worked my entire life in a varied and fulfilling career. Until this point, my life was work- and child-focused, and I didn’t have time to think about a retirement plan beyond a few financial implications. I knew I didn’t want a job to define this next stage of my life. I was sure I would not be bored by the windfall of time on my hands, and I was aware of time passing and making every day count.
At first, when someone asked me how I was spending my time or what I was doing in retirement, I didn’t have an appropriate answer. I had a list of projects and a bucket list longer than feasible, but somehow that was not what I wanted to explain. Tackling projects is not what is important to me, although I organize my days around projects, such as becoming a better writer and helping others craft their words. Getting things done sounded like a…