Issue #14, Volume 1
May 12, 2021
What does “retirement” mean to you?
This is a question I’ve been wrestling for for a surprisingly long time.
My grandfather worked for the same company for almost his entire career, and also did lots of outside consulting.
A research chemist, he helped make the industrial diamond possible by coming up with the container that could withstand the heat and pressure needed to transform carbon into diamond. He also worked on the Manhattan Project.
The company forced him retire at 65, and he funded his retirement with a generous pension, personal savings and investments, and Social Security.
He bitterly resented losing productive working years because someone else made that decision for him, and he eventually began consulting again, continuing until one month before he died at the age of 92.
In other words, he didn’t just sit around and stagnate in his forced retirement.
My father, a geologist, also turned to consulting work in his later years.
My mother, a professor of English at the college level, continued teaching at least one class per year after her official retirement, and lent her expertise to helping worthy organizations. She also guided grad students through thesis completion.
Despite these examples in my own family, for years I found myself holding onto the idea of the “retirement” years as some magical leisure time (with ample funds to enjoy them, of course). When I started to research the idea of living overseas, I’d find myself arguing with my computer screen every time I saw a reference to becoming a freelance writer in “retirement” and such like.
“That’s not retirement!” I would shout (mostly in my mind, but sometimes aloud).
As I approached the magic age of 65, I’d fantasize about my own retirement, which I couldn’t afford. Since the time when my grandparents and parents left the workforce, pensions disappeared (except for politicians – don’t get me started on that). Instead, anyone who wanted a financially comfortable retirement had to plan ahead and make their own investments, take advantage of company 401K plans, or establish IRAs.
Neither my husband nor I ever worked for large companies, and we never had the option to invest in a 401K. We established IRAs, which mostly didn’t survive the financial meltdown of 2009.
Retirement has felt like an unattainable Nirvana to me.
Then someone I have a great deal of respect for – Brian Clark – started using the word “unretirement.”
Until a funny thing happened.
He explained it in a way that actually made sense to me. (I know, sometimes I can be a slow learner.)
He wrote about the shift to “a multistage work life that will be more fluid as technology constantly eliminates tasks and entire jobs. Add to that a longer work life (and life in general), and your career is going to start looking more like a series of projects than a standard career arc.” (Emphasis is mine.)
And the pieces I’ve been wrestling with fell into place.
What changed? My mindset.
Why was I stressed about retirement before and I’m not now? Mindset.
Mindset is either “growth” or “fixed,” and each type contributes to (or detracts from) your success. Psychologist Carol Dweck wrote an entire book about it , which I read several years ago.
In general, I have a growth mindset, but in my attitudes toward this one particular thing — retirement — my mindset was as fixed as fixed could be.
Fixed mindsets tend to hold us back from making progress.
If you have a particular issue you’re wrestling with, if you’re feeling boxed in, perhaps it’s not your circumstances but your mindset that needs to change.
I would recommend reading Dweck’s book (I’m planning to read it again). Alternatively, here’s a rather detailed summary, which includes a 4-step guide to changing your mindset.
Of course, I’ve also spent the last decade+ arriving at this point. And the career trajectory Brian explains in that article is just what I’ve done in that time. I went from employment, to freelancing, to creating a course and publishing. . .
What will “retirement” look like for me? I don’t know. I do know it will mean taking on projects I want to do, and saying no to projects I don’t want to. I also know for sure it doesn’t need to be related to any particular age.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten. . . but at least I’m feeling more relaxed about it now.
Tips & Tricks
Don’t let others’ weird notions about writers influence you
As a writer (or other type of creator), have you suffered from misguided, outdated, or just-plain-wrong stereotyping?
This article explodes 11 harmful myths about writers. #2 and #8 really get to me. . . #9 doesn’t float my boat either, but I really am #10. (I just keep it to myself.)
The dominant emotion of 2021
This article’s author styles it “the dominant emotion of 2021.”
“It wasn’t burnout — we still had energy. It wasn’t depression — we didn’t feel hopeless. We just felt somewhat joyless and aimless. It turns out there’s a name for that: languishing.”
It’s the “emotional long haul of the pandemic.”
Where flourishing is well being at its peak, languishing is well being in the soggy middle. You’re not depressed, anxious, or hopeless, you’re just stuck in Blah-land.
After naming the enemy, this article’s author goes on to suggest some strategies for overcoming it.
Slow work may be the antidote
First there was the “slow food” movement, then “slow travel” as an antidote to the frenzied “if it’s Tuesday this must be Antwerp” type of touring.
Diana Shi recommends “slow work” as the antidote to pandemic drag. She explains
“The “slow work” movement prioritizes meaningful and measured productivity, alongside dedicated time for breaks. The work style places importance on concentrated work, especially on individual tasks. Hopping from assignment to assignment is not part of the slow work philosophy. However, wiping the slate clean, so your schedule is less packed, is a key part of slow work.“
Then she explains why our frenzied, multi-tasking, too-busy workstyle is bad for us, and suggests some strategies for slowing down.
Ready to travel again?
Lonely Planet has updated its article about countries where you can go once you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Of course, like anything else related to COVID, it can change quickly.
Like, for example, rumors that Europe will be open to us this summer. . .
Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. That means, if you click and purchase, you pay exactly the same amount and I’ll earn a small commission. These fees help me to keep the free information flowing.
In Case You Missed It. . .
Are you worried that you might wake up some morning and find that you’ve become an Anywhereist?
After all, why would you want to be one of those? Who would want to:
- Have the freedom to travel where and when you want?
- Work where you feel comfortable, in conditions that help you put forth your best effort?
- Live in the place where you can construct a happy life that’s meaningful for you?
- Now, if you want to completely ensure that you’ll never fall into any of those traps, here are 9 tips to keep you on the straight and narrow.
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