Even after retiring, you have control of your future. Make it count.

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Here’s a baby boomer who really figured out who she is. Even after the identity that she’d embraced for much of her life disappeared. Jackie Holl of Oyster Bay, New York, writes for BoomerCafé about How I Found My True Identity.

Most of us work the greater part of our lives. I was very young when I started the job that would become a lifetime career. I have to chuckle when I think of the old maxim: work for 25 years and when you retire collect a gold watch. In today’s world you might have retired for a number of reasons. This means you might have missed out on that gold watch, and you can forget about a golden parachute.

Jackie Holl

Jackie Holl

Case in point: I really wanted to retire, and left more than a year before I planned. But in my excitement to be free, it took me a short time to see that I was feeling something that I’d never heard mentioned in this context before … loss of identity.

I woke up the morning after I retired from my career as a flight attendant and didn’t have to think, “Where am I,” or “Where am I going today?” And for the first time in years, there wasn’t a packed, ready-to-go suitcase in my closet. It should have felt liberating but instead I felt a bit empty inside. As if there wassomething missing, some important piece of me snatched away with my career.

Maybe you’ve had confused feelings like mine or perhaps your moment of loss hit you when you first noticed that your iPhone wasn’t constantly beeping with “message received” notices. The silence you longed for during your career can feel a bit unsettling now that you’re retired. It’s a strange realization… neither good nor bad.

Jackie Holl (left) is cheered by her last flight crew before retiring.

Jackie Holl (left) is cheered by her last flight crew before retiring.

When I first thought, “I’m a retired woman!,” I had a very disturbing preconceived image of how retirees should look or act. I certainly didn’t feel like an old hermit who refuses to leave the house and simply watches life pass her by! My solution was to take courses and keep my days busy. I felt stressed and knew that something wasn’t right.

Jackie Holl's consulting business.

Jackie Holl’s consulting business.

After a bit of self- psychoanalyzing, I had a breakthrough! I was suffering from loss of identity. I could no longer call myself a flight attendant. But I also, fortunately, realized, “I am my identity.” My job might have seemed to define me, but all along I’ve always been me. Much like putting on a uniform, your career defines what you do, but when you take itoff, you’re who you’ve always been. You are your identity, and you always will be your identity.

If you decide you’re old, retired, and sentenced to living out the rest of your days on a worn couch watching old reruns, that will become your reality. And your identity. In fact, what you think about most generally becomes true. On the other hand, if you feel and see yourself as young, healthy, and vibrant, guess what? Retirement will be the best years of your life!

Finally, I’d like to point out that 65 is the new 45!

You can contact Jackie at Clipped Wing Coaching.

2 Comments

  1. Jackie,

    That’s so true but tragic that we base so much of our identity on our work especially in the corporate world. Unfortunately, I have seen many of my best friends in upper management positions in Fortune 500 companies being “downsized” over the past 5 or 6 years and this really has caused major depression for them even more than had they retired.

  2. My husband took quite happily to his own retirement despite having been a workaholic. He’s happy doing jobs, retreating to his ‘man cave’, generally pottering abut. Retirement is looming for me in a years time and I feel I am going to struggle with it. I have many interests however, and will be pursuing these with gusto. What I will miss is the camaraderie of my colleagues.

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