October 1, 2021

Be Yourself - Everyone Else is Taken




This seems like a good place to restart this blog. The focus moves from how to retire successfully to something a little more inclusive. You might have noticed the blog name changed slightly, as did the tag line. Both represent a way to telegraph a shift away from just retirement how-to subject matter.

Regardless of your age, I hope you will find some thoughts and ideas on these pages that resonate with you. I encourage you to leave comments. That is how we build a community of folks who feel comfortable enough to share personal concerns and reactions.

For this post, I am using a quote from author, Oscar Wilde, as a starting place. Sure, his phrase is a little glib and simplistic. Even so, in six words he expresses one of the elemental problems of being human: Who are we? What do we do with our one and only life on this planet? How do we avoid copying someone else's experiences yet still remain connected to other people?

Aren't you glad I tackled such an easy topic on the first full post after a four-month break? 

Let's look at a few of the areas in our lives that have the ability to make it more difficult to be the authentic "us."

Social Media. Personally, I often think of this broad category as unsocial media, but maybe that's just me. The idea was originally a good one: allowing us to connect with friends, family, and new people with whom we share something in common.

That is not how it has evolved. I am hard-pressed to think of any other method for spreading dissatisfaction, misinformation, hatred, bullying, or saying something that makes someone else feel small. 

With that caveat, I am on Facebook. I have family, friends, former work colleagues, and groups of people who share some of my interests. I do admit I find some of Facebook's decisions on what to ban or label as misleading to be puzzling. During the past year of political craziness, I admit to adding to the noise level with some posts that fit the above categories.

I am fighting to control that tendency. The whole vaccine issue has promoted me to share thoughts that express my frustrations. I am trying very hard to control my tendency to point fingers, draw broad-stroke conclusions about others, or do something that contributes to the nastiness that seems to be a regular feature of the Internet.

I left Twitter over two years ago and have felt no pull toward Pinterest, Instagram, or any of the dozens of other ways of spending my time.

Doing something I enjoy even if I am not very good at it. Painting comes to mind. I picked up a brush and canvas about two years ago. A few Bob Ross YouTube videos seemed to promise nearly instant success. Well, not quite. He painted over 10,000 of his wet-on-wet oil paintings before his death; I expected a dozen or so would put me in his category. 

Nope. On average, I painted over or tossed away about 90% of the first year's output. A few were decent enough to frame and put on living room and office walls. But, that speaks more to Betty's graciousness than the quality.

Eight months ago I shifted to acrylic paint. Cleanup was much simpler, paint was less expensive, and the drying time was in minutes instead of days. Again, the acceptable rate was 10-15%.

Importantly, I continue to enjoy the process. Sitting in front of a blank canvas or canvas board, anything is possible. The finished product isn't about to sell on eBay. But, my creativity is being fed and satisfied. 

Not continuing to do something that no longer satisfies. The flipside of the above is learning to not keep doing something because you are supposed to, others want to you, or you feel a sense of obligation that isn't accompanied by satisfaction. 

There is a particular activity that a local volunteer organization made possible that occupied part of each week for almost three years. I enjoyed preparing for each meeting, and time spent working with others. Then, Covid shut everything down. 

When it became possible to reengage, I realized the "been there, done that" feeling was more prevalent than wanting to go back. Certain people expected me to pick up where I left off but that wasn't enough to put me back in that situation.

I have had similar decision points over my journey after work. Looking back, I realize in each case I made the decision that was right for me. For one reason or another, I had moved on. 

Questioning some of my foundational beliefs held since childhood. This is really a whole post in itself, so I will only touch on it now. In matters of religion, church, and beliefs there has been a questioning of much of what came with me from childhood into my adult self. Spirituality and a belief in something larger than myself remains. But, how I experience and react to that belief is evolving. 

This is tricky. My goal is not to upset those closest to me, nor is it to challenge their beliefs in this area. This is a private part that needs to be adjusted with what seems to make the most sense to me. So, I am proceeding quietly.


In 21st century America, and in many other parts of the world, being yourself is not always easy. Pressures to conform, to say the "correct" things in a particular situation, or to not appear too far out of the mainstream are ever-present. We seem to have separated into tribes or cultural camps that act like polar opposites of each other.

I don't believe any human life is meant to be a copy of another's. What satisfies me, what allows me to achieve whatever potential is given to me at birth, to help make the lives of both those I know and those who are strangers to me better is the path I am trying to walk. As Mr. Wilde said, all the other options are taken.


26 comments:

  1. Bob, I am glad to see you back posting. I love this post, in all aspects. I am definitely in a similar place - trying to be me (and figuring that out along the way), trying to not live the expectations (social ones, deeply seated family ones, ones I hear that are really not there), and still hoping my own "creative outlet" will find me. It is a journey of self-discovery that being retired has allowed me to embark on.

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    1. Wouldn't it be simpler if the "me" definition didn't keep changing? !!! Even though many of us don't like change, that is the nature of the beast. Even though it may be uncomfortable at times, after retirement we have many more opportunities to shed the skin that no longer works for us.

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  2. Though I did not comment much, I read your words/work. It is really good to see you return.
    Charlene H

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    1. Thank you. I hope the content continues to satisfy!

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  3. Bob, I think your comment to Pat says it all. Adapting should be the moniker for our retirement years. It is time to shed our skins on things that we feared to do before. At our age, what matters to "us" should rule the day. And of course, adapting to the loss of a mate is something that half of us will endure during these years.

    This is a refreshing change at the new "My Satisfying Retirement". I think you will have a lot of fun, "having your say".

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    1. Thanks, long time friend.

      The changes you have gone through that you have documented so well in your blog are excellent examples of being adaptable when life throws roadblocks and obstacles in your way.

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  4. You're already off to a great start, Bob, and the new look and new direction of your blog suit you just fine. Love your tag line - that says it all!

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    1. Thank you, Mary. The changes should evolutionary, not revolutionary! Glad you approve.

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  5. Whatever you want to write about is OK with me... just keep writing. I love reading about your personal journey. I think that steadfastly holding on to what has always been and never questioning or growing is the surest way to rigor mortis... either above or below the ground.

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    1. None of us should be ready to hang it up. You are so right: rigor mortis, either actual or metaphorically, is the result to sticking to the old.

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  6. The changes people make as they age and evolve are one of life's most interesting topics to me. So this is a great direction. And I really enjoyed this post. Keep up the good work!

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    1. It is a subject I think most of us can relate to. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  7. Hi Bob, I am happy you are back online and have enjoyed this most recent post by you. I retired on December 15, 2014, as a nurse manager, in an occupational health care setting. I followed your postings during my first few years, fully retired, not working for paid employment. Your online messages helped me. Starting retirement, I am sure, is like starting a brand new job. You have to learn to do this new job-a Retiree of your former self. Currently, I know what makes me happy + will continue to do. Retirement is about doing other activities, other than what you did as a career. I love to read everything, able to stay awake to watch my favorite TV at night, cook healthy meals, go back to formal exercise classes, go to a beach in Rhode Island, approx. 4 miles from my home, throughout June -August, catch up on all family/friends get togethers, manage my own time, etc...The List can go on. Please continue to provide everyone with retirement advice. Best, Joan W.

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    1. You have a very full and satisfying retirement agenda! I like your analogy: retirement is kind of like starting a new job. You have to learn all sorts of new ways of doing things to stay at an even keel.

      I will continue with retirement advice, but couched in a more personal way, rather than as an instructor!

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  8. I agree that we should be ourselves and not try to copy other people, or twist ourselves into knots trying to conform to some role that others expect for us. And yet, sometimes people get too wrapped up in themselves and their own little world. They speak before they think (like on, ahem, social media), shout out their beliefs, celebrate their own weirdness but won't tolerate other people's weirdness.

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    1. Celebrating their own weirdness without tolerating it from others...exactly. Even more damaging is deciding my way is the only way.

      Thanks Tom.

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  9. One of the joys of growing older and being retired is that I have no trouble saying No! and/or Enough! It's been very freeing, and I'm a much happier person these days by looking out more for my own needs and wants and staying out of toxic situations. I wish I had figured it out and had the courage to have done it earlier.

    Twitter gets a bad rap, but I have found having a highly curated feed, rarely reading comments, and passing over any topic that I don't want to know more about has made it a not so negative place (although it's depressing at times). There are some fun people I follow, some great regular features, and I even got a personal tweet from Dire Straits one day! I also enjoy Instagram and seeing friends' photos, and again my feed is curated, with a self-imposed rule of "no influencers, no politics."

    I've stayed on Facebook because of our local Buy & Sell group, but when we leave Kaua'i I will leave Facebook for good. My feed these days is about 90% ads and posts from the Buy & Sell group but that's actually better though than all the politics and nastiness of last fall which is what finally drove me away.

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    1. Again, a loving thank you for your hospitality and friendship during our visit to Kauai. It's hard to believe but we have been back a week and a half already.

      Your Twitter comments are interesting. Maybe I was turned off by the company's slowness in deleting misinformation and rants. I have no interest in going back, but I find it helpful that you have described how you make the site work for you.

      I singed up for several groups on Facebook. But, after having my feed be overwhelmed by their constant postings, I dropped a few of them. As long as I follow my own rule about staying away from most political stuff, it works for me. As you say, I should have come to that conclusion awhile ago.

      I have added a link from your name to your excellent blog and will do so whenever you send me a comment.

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  10. Welcome back, Bob. This post definitely resonated for me. I think one of the great unsung benefits of being an elder is that we know who we are; we should make the most of that knowledge. Like you, I keep a Facebook account because it helps me keep up with distant family and friends, but I've reduced my time there to about ten minutes per day (and I've never been tempted by Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any of the other social media platforms). My creative outlet is my garden, so I'm looking for a retirement community where I can create and enjoy a small garden when I downsize from this house. In the category of "not continuing to do something that no longer satisfies me," I've decided to let go of my Master Gardener certification. I enjoyed the training and I love sharing gardening knowledge with others, but the pandemic helped me to realize that the options for required volunteering hours are not a good match for my interests and that I find the reporting requirements a hassle.
    I like your new focus and tagline.

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    1. Sometimes moving on feels like a bridge too far. But, then we learn that a decision is rarely made in isolation. Timing and our needs make a choice for us, if we have the courage to listen.

      You have written before about your certificate and its value to you. And, now it is doesn't fill the same need. That is quite a shift for you.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Bob,
    you are a few years ahead of me on your retirement journey and I have always appreciated your legacy blog and your take on things as a place to visit for perspective. Glad you're back!
    When I retired in May of '19, I posted a few sticky notes to the bottom of my screen to remind me of things to keep in mind, always:
    - discipline is more reliable than motivation
    - a year from now, you will wish you had started today
    - everyone you meet in life is fighting a battle you know nothing about, and
    - you got one life. Play your own game.
    Those four reminders plus reciting the five daily reflections have been a great source of internal peace for me.

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  12. Bob,

    Just checked your blog status, and was pleasantly surprised to see you back. Excellent!
    Looking forward to more insights on the journey, beyond "nuts and bolts."

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Thanks, Rick. I am anxious to see where this goes when every post doesn't have to be about retirement.

      If it would be helpful to you, be sure to enter your email in the box at the top of the left sidebar. A copy of the latest post will be emailed to you. Or, just check back every 5 days!

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