October 30, 2020

A LIfe: Before and After Retirement

Awhile back a sermon at church caused me to think not only of the message but also how the points relate to a satisfying retirement. His message was based on Paul's life and his conversion from a hater of Christians to the author of almost one-half of the New Testament. The pastor used two sets of three words to describe Paul's journey. 

Since thinking about blogging and post topics is an ongoing process, I welcomed this burst of connectedness. There are certainly three words that can accurately describe my life before retirement and my existence since.




Before Retirement:

* Angry - I worked with men just before and after their release from prison. Usually, those guys had a lot of anger to deal with. Uncontrolled anger often was what landed them behind bars in the first place. I have seen, firsthand, what unresolved anger can do to someone's life.

In my case, I am not talking about that type of anger. During the last 15 years of my career, I was angry at my feeling of being out of control. I was angry; I was gone from home all the time. I was angry that clients wouldn't listen to my suggestions. I was angry that the house was never "perfect" when I returned home from a road trip.

* Ambitious - There came a point when I was rather well known in my profession. I have a gold record on the wall of my home office given to me as a thank you for a young artist's rise to fame. Within the narrow context of a certain type of music programming, I was a national figure whose presence was sought as a speaker at conventions and group meetings. I helped write a study that changed the face of radio news. One of the major radio networks hired me to tell them how to improve. Radio stations would seek me out. I was receiving large sums of money to tell people what I thought.

With that type of adoration and financial support, I was riding on a wave of hubris (a great word that doesn't get used enough!). I didn't take the time to learn anything new about my industry. I was content to keep repeating the same message and following the same game plan year after year. Eventually, my ambition and pride would catch up with me in a big way and end my ride.

* Unfulfilled - Even with the travel, money, and career fame, I was not happy. I kept thinking that someone would discover I really had no idea what I was talking about. My life revolved around work...no, hold that, I had no life. I had a career and nothing else. There were no hobbies or interests that occupied my occasional off-hours.

The family would take vacations in Hawaii or our condo in Florida, but I'd never relax because I was worried about everything under the sun. Through all this, my incredible wife and two amazing daughters would stand with me and never tell me to my face. I was out of control.




After Retirement:

* Calm
- If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'd probably conclude I am rather happy with my lifestyle. I don't think my writing expresses much anger regularly because I don't really feel any (except when politics gets too stupid to ignore). My life has achieved some sense of balance. I have learned to keep my various activities, interests, and responsibilities in their proper place. It took me many years to figure out that anger is destructive to a person, a relationship, and a future. Anger is all-consuming and counter-productive. This is a work in progress, but there is progress.

* Content
- Sure, there are moments when I worry a bit about our finances or health. The pandemic is not magically going away, it is getting worse...again. My daughters and grandkids and their future are never far from my thoughts. I don't have the type of financial resources I expected to have at this stage of my life.

My lifestyle is simpler and less cluttered than I would have ever pictured for myself. I am happy with much less than I once was. In a word, I am content..content with my place in society, my family, and my life. You know me well enough to know that doesn't mean static. Contentment doesn't mean an end to growth and struggle. It means an end to striving for unrealistic and undesirable goals.

* Fulfilled - I am fulfilled by the way my life has unfolded. I have a woman by my side who has given me over 44 years of her life and means more to me than life itself. I have a family one only dreams of. I am doing what I want, how I want, and when I want. I believe I am loved by a Supreme Being. I have a few friends who I would walk over hot coals for. No matter what the future holds for me, I have a peace and sense of fulfillment that can never be taken away.

Retirement has been very good to me. I wish for you the same.



17 comments:

  1. Good post, Bob. I never would have pegged you as a person who once dealt with anger issues. Do still listen to the radio?

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    1. It was never anger expressed physically, but in words and attitudes. It was a "control" anger. It manifested itself in pre-ulcers and too much time spent in fight or flight mode.

      I rarely listen to the radio anymore. Too many commercials, the sameness of the music, and the lack of announcers makes it unsatisfying. Occasional NPR outside of political season and the local oldies station is about it.

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  2. DH and I have discussed this at length because he was angry too. Not that most people would know it, but I think corporate America really created a lot of that - mostly in men of his generation as the women often didn't work outside the home. He has mellowed a LOT since he retired and is now able to see how much it affected him. Life is much better on this side of retirement. Good post!

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    1. For our generation and ones before, men are usually the sex that holds in anger and has no appropriate way to deal with it. For generations after ours, with women being at least half the workforce, it is likely that future boggers will write about this problem from a more human perspective, rather than one centered on one sex.

      Of course, for housewives and mothers, anger is not an unknown emotion! Many of the stresses and feeling unfulfilled comes from those that fill those roles, but we don't read enough about them. Certainly, i am not qualified to speak for them.

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  3. I am about the same as with your After Retirement mode, more calm, content, and fulfilled, though in the "Calm" section it sounds like I probably had less anger and more internal stress than you, but I could really relate to your "Content" statement "It means an end to striving..."

    It's not that I don't have things I want to do and goals in retirement but they are my goals not someone else's. If I decide I want to complete hiking a 500 mile long trail then I do that and if I don't make it to the end that's okay. There's no "do more with less" year-end performance review listing my accomplishments or having to explain why certain things weren't done to higher ups. I do things now to please myself and not others, there's no judgement, which is such a load off of me and I appreciate that everyday.

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    1. An excellent summary of why a well-lived retirement is such a tremendous experience.

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  4. And you worked for yourself, didn't you? With your own business? Imagine how angry and unfulfilled you are when you work for someone else, taking orders and bowing down to bosses who often don't know what they're doing! I don't know about you, but when I left the corporate staff and went freelance/consultant it was almost as good, and even in some ways better than being retired.

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    1. I did work for myself for most of my career. But, that meant a constant search for clients, the inability to say no even if I had more work than I could comfortably handle, and no one to share the stress and pressures with. In that sense it was every bit as difficult as a corporate culture.

      I did learn early on I didn't fit into a large company structure. It might have been much rougher if I stuck with that path.

      Evcen with all the negatives, I loved my work. I just didn't do the best job of handling the pressures or keeping a decent balance in my life.

      Retirement solved that.

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    2. Lower stress levels, can't argue with that!

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  5. Interesting...thanks for sharing...

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  6. Bob, I think your experience imparts an important lesson. A difficult and unhappy rough stretch of life does not preclude one from enjoying happiness and contentment later. In fact, it may provide the perspective necessary to truly appreciate a life without strife.

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    1. Excellent point, Mary. Life is about learning from past mistakes and trying to cut down on unforced errors.

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    2. I have found a weight lifted off my shoulders since retired and such contentment. I have a 44 year history of working for the government in a very high stress overwhelming job made much harder by the never changing policies/procedures and documentation that the government is known for from people who have no clue what working on the front line is really like. I’m a RN in a state psychiatric hospital. I retired several years ago but then took a intermittent position meaning I can pick up shifts if I want. I took a few months at the beginning of Covid worried with my age and lying low for a couple of weeks as our state is really bad now. Interesting to go to work a shift and leaving thinking thank God I don’t have to do that every day. No disrespect to my patients who I really care for but the stress!

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    3. Working for a large governmental bureaucracy and worrying about the health and we;ll-being of your patients. You needed a break!

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  7. Before:
    Ambitious, workaholic, exhausted

    After:
    Joyful, Engaged, Searching
    Although I am very happy with my post-retirement life, I can’t let go of the self-expectation that I should be contributing more (especially with respect to climate change) rather than just “indulging myself.” I guess a lifetime of “Ambitious” and “Workaholic” hasn’t really gone away.

    Jude

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    1. No, it it hard to flip that switch to off. There is always something that nudges us back into the fray.

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