I don’t want to bake more cookies- Rethinking life towards and after retirement

Some of my acquintances retire and I hear them talking about the things they will do or not after their jobs end, or already do or don’t. Some are happy and some seem dissatsified. “How is your retirement? ” I ask someone and he’d reply that well the notion is most elderlies go on hikes, I did too once, but now I want to go on about my day and life. I actually miss working because it gave me a sort of purpose. Not that I liked it, but hm oh well. I’ll find something to do.”

This and further conversations, made me think about what life I want to live, if when I set a seemingly “psychic end” to work life already, or center my thoughts on life after retirement, for which I don’t know how it will be like anyways, if the life I live is pursued because of generiousity to myself, or because of my imagined after-worklife retirement. If for the latter, does this result in me working too much, a job I possibly dislike or follow because of its financial incentives? I write so, because so often I hear” I can’t wait for retirement, finally to do the things I enjoy.” I feel it should be “I am looking forward to life itself “.

Retiremenet often seems to be perceived as the end of life phase. A start of a new life, which in retrospect is a continuity of life as whole. If someone has experiernced furstration before, they will continue to experience it after.

Yet in the retirement phase, I feel that increasing levels of loneliness or dissatisfactions suddenly originate too. In one way not doing anymore what one possibly did not like, let’s say the factory work and therefore prone to experience an increasing emptiness “How to fill such lack of work now with what type of meaning?” And in other ways not being able to continue to do what one has previously liked “industrial design,” for example because one is now the retired.

It made me think about notions to the end of life; whether a career or profession could be sustained that creates a particular meaning in the “retirmenet phase”, a form of continuity. And at the same time what form of activities could possibly be pursued so that one who experiences such a huge loss of work, even if it didn’t pleasure, can fill their time with a different form of meaning and pleasure that not necessarily relates to hiking and playing Bingo only.

Why does this worry me?

I began thinking about the retirment phases of my grandmother(s), and other elderlies in elderly homes or different forms of care; some that still lived through WW2 or the aftermaths. Some that simply lived. Some who complained at me that they didn’t want to be read out children stories or bake cookies all the time, but how much they still want to feel alive in other notions too; to design, to engineer, to teach. I guess they could, but yet they aren’t often offered the opportunity, even to fall in love again at 80 or to start a new business, if they wanted to.

Why can’t we be more engaging with the elderlies? someone could ask and the reply would be “dementia” or other symptoms of aging. But I’d say that between those moments of amnesia, there is some depth of joy that can be experienced, even if forgotten after. Though parts of it, the joy felt, the emotions, stored in the lower brain regions, they likely won’t be forgotten that easy.

Why does this matter, why does this relate to sustainability?

Just like babies, our brains still want to be stimulated. And possibly similiar to babies and brain growth; if such stimulation little exist, then brain is more likely to experience detoriation. And when we talk about detoriation of the brain, we can also talk about increases in somatic and other forms of illnesses. Furthermore, loneliness and lack of engagment turn into a major public health concern. In fact, it already is.

What can be done about it?

While these problems are known about, expenses for health care are quit high, leaving elderly care often at a minimum of care. To circumvent that the Netherlands has piloted a project in the city of Deventer in which students rooms are rented out for a discount in an elderly home in exchange for one hour volunteer work. Often students end up doing more hours for the community, then they actually have to. In another example, UK primary school merges generations by inviting elderly to work with them, a concept that originated in Japan.

And then of course there is you, us; how can we live as society, but also as individuals that the life lived is worth to be pursued as a whole and less as to be seperated stages?

Advertisement

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

When students enter the end of high-school, the question who they want to become for the rest of their lives becomes fundamentally present. “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Many don’t know, some know, and some know, but they can’t. So they deviate their choice of interest or begin with any interest, that eventually as adults might leave them locked-in or question, whether what they do is actually something they thrive in. “If I could go back in time, I would have done that.” “Why haven’t you?” I would ask back, and receive a range of different answers or the sheer expression of not knowing.

Can I (still) become who I want(ed) to?

I remember the end of my high-school and I wanted to study psychology. I had no understanding of psychology and at the same time, I could not study it, because my high school grade (NC) was too low to enrol into a German university to study psychology. I could not become who I wanted to. I looked over the border of Germany and I realized many universities do not have a NC. Instead they have intake tests and some (like mine) had intake interviews to validate student motivation for a certain study program. Mine integrated business and public health. I quickly specialized in mental health. I thrived, my grades thrived. I could become who I wanted to still a bit; just differently.

Yet I am not a psychologist working in clinical practice. Can I become one still? No, unless I invest around 5-10 years of formal and practical education. However, I can enroll in further education (which I do) and integrate aspects of clinical knowledge in my work and private environment. I also do not have to become a psychologist “by titel”, but I can offer counceling services that also help improve the lives of people differently. So yes and no, I can and I can’t.

Could I (still) become a diplomat?

If someone asked me that question, I would not know how to answer it. But I remember having looked up political studies specializing in politics and conflicts, so that one could work for a foreign ministry. This never interested me, but for some time in my studies, or at the end I had developed a huge passion for ecosystem services in relation to livelihood. Eventually I decided to intern at an intergovernmental organization in China. I wanted to do so, because they specialized in bamboo. Ironically I did not know they were a diplomatic organization, but was quickly involved in that. Now I had diplomatic experience written on my CV and I could have continued that path. After all, diplomacy is about understanding differences and navigating jointly towards a common goal; Why does country a benefit from improved ecosystems and how can country b support such collaboration? ->Diplomacy. You can become a diplomat by specializing, being the expert in a field of your interest. Interest thrives!

Can I (still) work at the NASA?

If someone asked me that randomly, like a neighbour, I would quickly find out, that they might have expertise in a different field, let’s say pharmacy, being a cashier, kindergardener. I would say that the chance is quite low unless they changed their entire lives. Yet, I might just be so wrong. One of the alumnis from my Bachelor, developed a huge passion for waste and somehow she, her student team and professor came to think about waste in space and the effects it has on satelite crashes, whereby functioning satelites are essential for the many services we use today (mobile phones, health and more). She became so passion, that she founded the “Sustainable Development Goal 18“, is invited to give guest lectures on space and waste. As I last heard her talking, she got into the last round of job interviews at the European Space Agency for a job. She has to say 0 formal background in space, but much informal. Passion thrives and other people see that too. And passion/interest can be developed at any age.

Can I (still) become a teacher?

A teacher is someone who delivers information, ideally engaging, so that students learn, can feel empowered. I never intended to be one, but now I happen to be one ” a lecture at a University of Applied Sciences”. I don’t have the formal education for teaching, but I lived almost 7 years abroad, and I enjoy putting some of that knowledge together in a course and teach it to students. I will though. There is a demand for that, because education often looks for practical examples. So at any age, even without the formal education, you can become a teacher. Unsure? Put a free training course together and teach it (online). That also lands you skill-sets.

Can I work in counterterrorism/ intelligence analysis?

Often we look at profession as if they were a narrowed path, but less likely the skill sets needed for a certain profession; i.e. the ability to read people, to remove bias from information, to be fast, to communicate clear, to be a critical thinker, a single and team player. Instead we look at: To do this, I would have needed to study this in particular. Therefore, I never qualified and I still don’t qualify. In fact, often that is not true. For instance, in intelligence analysis the skill-sets listed above are important, but they can be found and developed in different professions. Of course, skill-sets very likely need further development, but the lack of a certain education that has let there, no longer should be an excuse not do it. Most of all; if you thrive, they thrive.

How do I know this is what I actually want?

I find this is the most difficult questions, because even if you remember, what you wanted to do or now think you want to do, there is a lack of certainty in that this is something you really enjoy. For instance, one could start studying medicine and realize, that one can’t see blood, so the “ideal” or the imaginary one holds of a job or profession may not hold true. That is years of time and money lost. To avoid that, it is helpful to go and interview people in the field “What do you like and what do you dislike?” I would even interview more since different people have different experiences and perceptions towards a profession (that’s what I like about science).

You may also want to do an internship, or see where certain skill sets demanded in a job, are skill sets you have but that show otherwise. In the case of the job of the intelligence analyst, I would see where else I am good at analyzing data. Maybe you end up finding out a skill-set unique to you that matches a profession you haven’t thought about i.e. being resilient or great at dealing with conflicts, possibly make you a good lawyer.

How does this relate to sustainability?

In one way its about thrivability. It means thriving in something, therefore feeling more content with oneself and experiencing a lower need to substitute something that is missing (negative feeling, or dissatsifaction such as with the job one choses) with something else that gives a positive feeling (pleasure) such as in shopping, drinking etc.. Often that type of pleasure does not sustain, because it aims at “compensation” or in other words “the coating” of the cake, while the cake foundation needs fixing. So it lacks.

Now by choosing a job, that sustains, that one thrives in, desire for compensation (up to addictions or levels of dissatsifaction) often decreases. One is more willing to “invest financialy” (cash flow;) ) into a career, because of the certainty of it. The return of investment (financially, but most of all emotionally is likely far higher). However, as one comes to think about, one also comes to think about being too old, too young? or too locked-in to implement changes. In addition, there seems as much as fear to change to something that makes one thrive possibly more.

However, that isn’t the case and in any age and stage, there are opportunities to at least integrate parts of another discipline that one might have miss(ed) out. One might even look for new directions, not thought of yet.

What about you? Please feel free to comment, write about your situation, job choices and I am gladly responding. You can also book a free consultation with me.