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?

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Is there hope in the lack of it?

Someone asked me to reply to the following;

“Many people say we are driving towards extinction and horrible living conditions, basically the future will be really dark. Others say that everything will be fine. I don’t know if I can relax and enjoy the present moment with thinking that the future will be ok or if I need to fight more because the future will apparently be really bad.”

And here is my answer;

In sustainability we deal nearly every day with the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them. In doing so we tend to begin with the end in mind and often that is the worst; “the end of the world as a result of climate change”. This trickles down to the interconnections and reason for that to happen such as inqualities, growing gaps between the rich an poor, corruption, unsustainable production and consumption processes, homophobia, abuse of power, addictions, health disparities, greed, species destinction, terrorism, further illness and alike. A recipe for anxiety.

It is now not only climate change that is a threat to our own survival, but it is also the interconnections that, when we focus in extremes on them, become the reality of how this world is, or more specifically how we perceive it to be. Let me point out; it is not like that, it is not neither nor in extreme, it is in proportion. Yet, (please continue reading, the good part is comming soon), many of these challenges seem extremely difficult to solve though, because of how complex they are so that the proportion might feel overwhelming. Such an example is the current war going on between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no “stop” botton. And there also seems no stop bottom for corporations to pollute and exploit because they get to benefit from the perks of limited liability (see why that happens in the video below). It nearly feels like working towards a vacuum, a sort of helplessness in the messiness we fight in that field.

Now in sustainability we still work with the end in mind (the worst case scenario) and in some methods we imagine the best case scenario, in which we have saved the world and all problems this world is facing (see the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals). Yet even if we use the best case scenario in which we imagine the perfect world, we still break down the vision into things that don’t work out now and then how we need to change them get to the imagined perfect world. We may see again that all is quite wicked. It makes it seemingly perceive that we will likely run into a shitstorm; extinction. More anxiety.

Is there any hope globally?

In all the scenarios that we run through, in all the madness that indeed is real in proportion, there is yet also hope. That is in fact seeing that such things as the Sustainable Development Goals exist or that one or two typos become increasingly accepted (more biases being removed that against how things should be but no longer hold to true i.e. in innovation, being open for change and working with differences). Going back; although the SDGs may not be ideal, they give some sort of direction and thanks to the SDGs we see not only companies moving towards more sustainability in many different ways, but we also see more people being aware of it as a result of creative forms of education, being that funny TikTok movies to reach a broader mass, other forms of Entertainment Education, or simply because people care. We now also see that sustainability becomes a profitable business case, so that capitalism (one of course can critiques it) becomes also an opportunity for change.

There is also much efforts done by individuals as there is done by NGOs and even governments through the implementation of new laws and policy. One can now even see countries nearly competing in terms of which country or region is becoming more green or more sustainable. Why would they do that? Well it attracts investments. The more stable an economy, the more secure investments, or in some cases tourism and further employment opportunities (money is not too bad). In addition, the world is becoming more globalized, our perception is changing rapidly, so that we no longer live in our own thought bubbles, but also in ways in which things can change more rapidly, not our perception only, but opportunities of cooperation and in the fight for lets say climate justice (think about Greta Thunberg); She does a great job in bringing the issue at stake.

Is there more hope?

Many people don’t throw their trash on the floor, there are companies and individuals I know who are not driver for sustainability of the entire organizations, but their hearts are inside; While Twitter might not be known for promoting gender equality and feminism I know at least one employee who drives that type of thinking in her heart there and internal in the organization, so that in all that critqiues about Twitter there is also hope. And knowing her, I am sure she’s moving a lot.

K-Pop at the UN. That’s called fan loyality and awarness raising at high level.

And for the other topics; as much as there is war, there is also the lack of it (think about how many countries are not at war now) and while there is a lack of biodiversity there is also not a lack of it thanks to growing regulations on forest protection and because people like it (also thanks to instagram almost instagram nature tourism and romantic tags in forest/nature scenarios that are worth protecting nature for too.). Seemingly, there are many tech companies that invest into IT Tools for social innovation (I know at least one) and sustainability also becomes this cool thing to do, even in education it becomes increasingly implemented. In ways its nice, because it moves automatically (literally giving us a rest also thanks to different time zones and many people working in this field around the clock and thanks to social media running 24/7 in repetition). It also is becomming more fun and accessible i.e. being more able to shape our cities through tools or different ways in which the public can participate in legal decision making. This is kind of the way to go.

Will the future be okay or bad?

Coming back to the original comment; There is no certainty, because in certainty we know, and sustainabiltiy or the end goal of it seems quiet uncertain. There is direction and when we look at direction there is much hope too, and balance in how we look at things also.

References

Glick, R. A. (2003). Idealization and psychoanalytic learning. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly72(2), 377-401.

Swart, R. J., Raskin, P., & Robinson, J. (2004). The problem of the future: sustainability science and scenario analysis. Global environmental change14(2), 137-146.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2014). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. The International Journal of Press/Politics19(3), 360-379.

Cover Picture: Local Artist Studio.

What’s therapy like?

It’s mental health awareness week, 2022 and indeed, I am visiting a therapist too. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a good thing? Yes. Unfortauntely therapy is often stigamtized although in the USA it was for some time quit common to have a therapist. Therapy can be for everyone, of any age and often its not just about being “mindfull”, sometimes its a change in perception or putting emotions into language. Much I didn’t know about, so that I put together this small blog on a few of my learnings, to kind of change that narrative on mental health and illustrate that different forms of looking at mental health and perception can contribute to well-being as individual and within the broader cultural context. After all, its for all.

Look at the bright side!

Its’ been one of the comments I heard most in my life and also said it most to myself. Something didn’t go well, but I had to or made myself look at the bright side. “A relationship ended sadly, but on the bright side it ended. A family member died, but on the bright side, I was on holidays. I got rejected for a job, on the bright my CV looked great. I was sad about moving to another city, but on the bright sight new people could be met. I lent someone money who did not pay it back, but on the bright side I still had money. I was scared about teaching, on the bright side I looked beautiful. The project proposal did not get accepted, on the bright side new calls would come. I felt lonely, on the bright side I have a cat.”

Though, my therapist taught me, these statments have nothing to do with the experience felt. They devalue and they distract from what has caused the feeling to begin with; Why did the project proposal fail? Why was I scared of teaching? Why couldn’t I be sad on holidays? Why did I lend money to this person? Why didn’t I get the job? Not feeling “the side not bright” instead pushed feeling inwards, made expressing them difficult, has led to isolating more inwards. It devalued, took away the meaning of what was felt, created uncertainty and supported acceptance over the non bright side. Leading to no changes that could serve a truly brighter side. Its’ called toxic positivity.

Your feelings are wrong!

I remember one of the first conversations with therapist and I said “Sorry for crying I know it’s stupid to be sad about this.” From then on many conversations were about “Why would you feel stupid for feeling a certain way? It’s how you feel and there is nothing wrong about feeling. It’s like saying it’s stupid that you feel sad for having lost a leg [if you did]. It’s not stupid. It’s valid in your own experience”. From then on, more conversations centered around the validty of my feelings, the fact that each of us has an own “subjective narrative” to which we react in certain ways that holds true to how we feel and perceive. Indeed telling others that their feelings are wrong, is by fact wrong. Its okay to be annoyed, its okay to be angry, its okay to be happy, its okay to be.

A narrative on celebations on mothers day being for happy mothers only is one-sided. When we have a society that celebrates or rewards only certain type of behaviour or feelings and disregards different perceptions and experiences, society is limited in its being. That is reducing the feelings of people to an inadequacy that more likely pushes them into shame instead of finding a supportive networking or feedback that more likely reinforces or is accepting their feelings. Telling them, that their feelings are”right as oppose to wrong”.

This won’t work!

There are probably many times in which we got rejected, as child, as lover, as employe, so often that trying feels scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Trying to avoid rejection, is a bad thing. Telling someone that a change in direction won’t work because the risks are uncertain may not pay out in the long term. Sometimes we do have to risk. Telling someone they can’t love someone because the circumstances are off, minimizes their feelings but may also leads them to self-reject, before they may even try within the circumstances that are off. Recommending someone to avoid talking about a certain topic, because it won’t be liked, likely leads to that things will always stay the same.

It is not rejection itself that people fear, it is the possible consequences of rejection.Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself (Robert Foster Bennet)

It’s not important!

My shoe is dirty, but it’s not important. I have relationship problem at home, but it’s not important. I feel lonely, but it’s not important. I am stressed because I have to pick up my child earlier, but it’s not important. I want to take a shower, but it’s not important. I want to become a writer, but it’s not important. I want to try out a new music instrument, but it’s not important. I want to study something else, but it’s not important. I want to set up a business, but it’s not important. I want to change my curricular, but it’s not imporant. (…)

“Why isn’t it important?” my therapist asked and I said , some things I think, in the large scale don’t matter. I can’t change them, I have no experience” “It matters because it matters to you.”

Whatever small it is , it matters. If nothing really matters or if importance is reduced to the smallest feeling, then everything that is perceived as seemingly not important, will always stay that way, when its the small things, the small irritants that need more listening to. Small things, that make living so worthile, a clean shoe, a random post, a great conversation, an egaged student, a happy pet, a great meal, shiny hair, a great book, time to breath, time to do nothing, a boring holiday, a cool class, an experiment that fails.

This has to be perfect!

There is no perfection. Even in nature, leafs don’t look perfect symmetrical. There is always some sort of lack of perfection. But we tend to want make things perfect, write perfect, say everything perfect, think it all through, wait so much, copy other people who we think that make something perfect, lose some sort of sense of self or how ones own uniquness can be perfect to another, thinking one needs to be like another, than realizes one is not, had their own perfection already been perfect to themselves. Misses hours and days of simply “doing” or “doing” by perfectionizing, when things aren’t always perfect. They may appeal, more or less, but there is no guideline on perfection, and where there is, they miss out the uniqueness that imperfection offers; a typo in a CV or text of a brilliant person, an academic article trying to be published by a non-native struggling English speaker, an idea terrible explained, but fantastic in its implementation, a haircut not appealing to the mass, but so appealing to one it truly does appeal to, love true and messy in the eyes of others, but so rich and fullfilling in the eyes of oneself with the other, a uniqe business to be shared, but isn’ because its not like other [go for it !]

Narratives on mental health?

Hiding, not feeling, pretending not to, ignoring, avoiding, not living, not being, determine how things should and should not be, all that effects our mental health. It is the range of feelings, the range of narratives, the range of experiences that makes being human more human, within the experience that one shapes with oneself and the expereince one shapes with another. There is no right or wrong to being, there is more likely wrong to “denying being” and that is where much of the mental health headeachs reside ; thinking one isn’t good enough the way they are, devaluing feelings, the experiences one makes, not wanting to change, because one things they can’t, wanting others to be the same, denying individuality, denying love, denying being.

(…)

Resources

[Experiences from my therapy and readings following Freud, Lacan, Instagram posts from therapists]

Mari Ruti (2013): The Call of Character: Living worth being. Book

Whats a sustainable circular business model? A license plate!

By the end of last year, a group of high school students, aged 15-16 approached me and asked, whether I could support their newly formed school company with 10 Euros. Those 10 Euros symbolized a small share in the company and I joyfully said yes and was excited to become shareholder for the first time in my life. I asked them ” What excactly am I shareholder of and what exactly is this part of ?” ” It is an extracurricular activity, supported from JUNIOR . At JUNIOR, high school students set up their own student company, distribute their products to customers and earn real money. learn what the reality of entrepreneurs looks like – by trying it out for ourselves.” “Super cool! What is your business like?” ” We make products from license plates that aren’t used anymore by their car owners. Our company is called UsedPlates3 – UP3 . ”

Allthough they already hinted into the direction of circularity by highlighting the concept of “waste to value”, little would I know that they would fully develop a sustainable circular business model over the next months. And little would I know how their small business idea would receive growing attention from different German newsoutlets. And most of all was I joyfully amazed, when I heard that their company and efforts had made it as far as to compete in a Germany wide student entrepreneurship competition.

Now, why am I that enthusiastic about their idea? It fully reflects not just a simple circular business model, but also a business model that is sustainable. So what’s a sustainable circular business model? To me that means that it is needs based.

First of all, many people need a car. Nowadays, a car might be almost as important as food. Something we likely cannot say no to, especially if we live rural and need to go to work. Even if we rented a car a la car-sharing, cars would still be needed. And with each car, a licence plate is needed as well. There is almost no expiration date to a licencse plate, yet each licence plate might have an end to its life such as when a car is not needed anymore.

There are of course many more needs based products. Such an example is clothing with the original aim to serve as protection from environmental hazards. However, many clothes nowadays are promoted in such a way that they do not fullfill this basic need anymore solely, but rather support the buying of new clothes that have little functional value. Let’s think of a pink glitter high heel instead of a boot that keeps our feet safe. In addition, fashion trends frequently change, particular by season and again, this encourages consumers to buy more and more, adding to the pile of sustainability disaster, form a social but also ecological perspective.

What purpose or need are these shoes fullfilling?

This differs to a licence plate, which again is needs based and therefore does not promote consumption of a new license plate to begin with. Because of that it is “sustainable” by origin. Now this product is also circular, because it can be transformed into a new product without having to recycle it. Recycling for instance, is linked to the lowest form of circularity, because a lot of energy is used to take materials apart and to transform them. A license plate on the other hand, can stay as it is , and only needs to be shaped into the desired end-product. “Only” to be used careful, because the students still create everything by hand and it takes quite some time.

What’s my favorite catch on their business model? That’s OMG that they had thought about the concept of “emotional durability” in their business model. Emotional durability bascially means that a consumer of a product feels strongly connected and therefore, wants to keep their product for as long as possible. That’s crucial if we talk about product life-cycle extension. What better product is there, than one made of a license plate of a car, with which the owner has experienced so many adventures and spent so much time with? I can’t think of one.

So you guys, your school, JUNIOR and most of all your amazing business UP3 super rock. You win my special sustainable circular business award 🙂 Interested to learn more about the work? Comment or message me and I will connect you.