Retirement and Stereotypes

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words retirement or retiree?

Think for a minute.

In my experience, there isn’t a lot of ambivalence when someone hears either one — retirement or retiree. These two words carry certain stereotypes and numerous other negative connotations. 

Photo from Osvil and Florence Elston Family Albums

Something like putting the old fart out to pasture since those people are old and now useless. 

At least until you realize. 

“That’s me they’re talking and thinking about.”

“I am that retiree.”

“I am retired.”

“Does retirement mean my life is over – now what?”

Retirement and Stereotypes

I think we all agree how we look at those two words, depends more on who we are talking about.

Whether it be ourselves or someone else. 

I know that is how I used to look at retirement and retirees, before I became one, especially this last time.

Defining Retirement

When I asked Google what retirement is, this is the quick definition:

  • the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work.: “a man nearing retirement” “the library has seen a large number of retirements this year”. synonyms: giving up work, stopping working, stopping work, retrial
  • the withdrawal of a jury from the courtroom to decide their verdict.
  • seclusion.: “he lived in retirement in Miami”. synonyms: seclusion, retreat, solitude, loneliness, isolation, privacy, obscurity

Really positive things – right. 

Oh well, some myths die hard even for Google, I guess.

My Experience

While most consider retirement to be something that old people do, that is not always the case.

I’ve retired 3 times:

  • I retired after more than 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard. I was 38, and my views towards retirement and life were vastly different at my first retirement. It was less a retirement and more of a changing of careers, where my previous career helped support choices related to my next one.
  • At age 54, I retired from teaching. Actually, I simply resigned and left, but I called it retirement because my wife and I decided to take the time to make regaining our health our priority and I didn’t go back into the workforce for four years.
  • Just before I turned 60, a close relative died suddenly, and we decided that life was too short to live by other people’s schedules and demands, so I retired again. Yep, this time I believe that I will stay retired unless some opportunity blows me away.

It is said that the third time’s the charm, we will see. 

So, I have a bit of experience at being retired. 

What about now?

What are my thoughts on retirement…now that I am a retiree?

I see retirement as part of a journey, it is not a destination

Retirement is another stage in life that has the potential to be well-lived and enjoyed.

It becomes what we make of it by the choices we make and while some things are beyond our control or a result of bad luck. Both of those things are with us at whatever stage of life we are in.

Life doesn’t stop once we retire and we need to live as best we can.

The thing is, we have to be willing to make appropriate choices for ourselves, based on how we live our lives. Not the expectations or artificial standards set down by others or self-proclaimed experts who don’t know what makes our lives and retirements unique.

Can you change your life in retirement?

I believe you can.

Like most things in life, changes need to be rooted in the reality of your life, interests, and challenges. Even so, every day is a new day and if we make choices to do something differently, better, or reinvent who we are, we can’t let being retired stop us. 

It also means a willingness to be uncomfortable at times. You have to push yourself physically, mentally, learn new things, and be willing to adapt to where you are now.

Not the fantasy life you believe should be yours or a life that others might have. 

The reality is that 

Writing posts like this force me to look closely at what I am doing.

Of course, we do not all lead those perfect lives that we read or watch, wherever we chose to be entertained.

My life has too many of those “oh shit” moments, why is this happening to me, and then again there are all those times when I look around – smile and think about how lucky I am. 

In retirement, just like the rest of our lives before we joined the ranks of being a retiree, we will have both. We have good days and bad, that we will enjoy or muddle through and get to the other side of.

Then we will continue onward the best we can with our lives.

To answer my original question.

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words retirement or retiree? 

My answer is that everyone’s retirement is different and that the stereotypical expectations for either word are not the reality for most of us. 

  • Retirement is unique to each retiree.

For me, retirement is all about having the freedom and time to pursue my interests, and not being bound by someone else’s expectations or hours. Well, except for that damned Honey-do list.

  • What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words retirement or retiree? 

 Come with me now, the best is yet to be.

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