In Celebration of Small things: The Freedom to be Me

In Celebration of Small Things: The Freedom to Be Me

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‘I used to be….’
‘When I was….’.
‘In my job I….’

These are statements I regularly hear from people who have retired from work. They may have left their job two months or twenty years ago, either way they continue to define themselves by what they used to do.
‘But who are  you now?’ I want to ask but rarely do. This living in the past by continually referring to your previous job, was highlighted for me recently while waiting at a bus stop with my three year old grandson. A man of mature years vividly recalled in exquisite detail some of his finest moments as a pilot- in addition to some of his most traumatic.
‘ He said I was one of the best pilots they had ever had…..’ over and over he relived the golden moments as well as decrying the restructure which inevitably left him out of a job.
The transition from paid work to retirement can be extremely challenging and most experience this as a loss and not a liberation. Even more so if your job came to define who you were as a person and gave you prestige in the eyes of society. I certainly found it difficult at first. My retirement was precipitated by death and deep loss which caused me to question the meaning and purpose of my life. Through deep introspection and counselling, I came to realise tha5 my life had been severely unbalanced and I had fallen prey to that most virtuous  of all addictions,  workaholism, As a self employed businesswoman, it was up to me to make it happen and I certainly did! Work gave me the recognition and reward that no other part of my life had. Learning to disengage from this dysfunctional persona, I came across the myth of Hercules. In this classical story, the man who symbolises our strength is given the gift of a cloak by a doe eyed nymph. He cherishes the gift and soon it becomes a regular feature of his appearance in the world, his persona or social identity.  As in all myths a challenge arises when the cloak catches fire and Hercules is forced to make a choice-perish with the cloak in the fire or painfully rip off his favourite item of clothing. At this stage of the hero’s journey-and we are all on an heroic quest to be ourselves,  Jung draws the analogy that this is 5he same action we must take with a persona that has become too comfortable and no longer serves our progression into the next stage of our life.
It is a sacred task to let go or strip away the old and move into a new stage of life in which we are free to be ourselves and create our own self definition in the eyes of society.

16 thoughts on “In Celebration of Small things: The Freedom to be Me

  1. Lots of your post resonated with me as I left my job as a primary school teacher just over a year ago and still do not quite know how to define myself. I’m not yet 50 so I can’t be “retired” and I’m having the time of my life doing so much more now by doing lots of volunteering in different spheres but somehow society doesn’t rate this as much as being in paid work so what am I? Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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    1. I know what you mean . Despite all the hoo haa about volunteering being noble, it isn’t as valued by society as paid work but it should be ! It can be hard to get the validation you deserve so the only thing to do is give that recognition to yourself. You are blazing a trail for others to follow their passion

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  2. Uh-oh — I may be one of those “dysfunctional personas” as I’m definitely a workaholic. On the other hand, I hated my jobs, hated working for others, so I saw retirement as a wonderful liberation. I’m so much happier now, even though trying to make it as a writer is sucking up all my time and I’m on the laptop 18 hrs a day… It’s great that you made changes in your life and are doing so well now. Have a wonderful weekend!

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  3. Lovely post. As a stay at home mother, I’ll be in a whole different boat at ‘retirement’ stage. I see my changes as the kids are getting older, moving out and things are getting quieter around the house. Right now, I’m trying to build up other areas to take over those holes before the last one heads out. Glad you’re making your life switch so smoothly!

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  4. Thank you for a thought-provoking post. So often people who retire seem to lose their identities and don’t know who they are anymore. They have a hard time embracing their new stage of life and, as you said, fall back on the past. Kudos to you for realizing that and being able to move beyond it to enjoy who you are now.

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  5. Thank you for a lovely post and a great reminder. I was forced into retirement via disability, but I don’t use my jobs to define me. Unless it’s as a writer, which I have always and will always be 🙂 Have a great week! ~Lori~

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      1. My pleasure 🙂 And yes, it is great to be a writer… It is the only thing that fulfills me 🙂 And thank you… I worked in customer service.. definitely don’t want to be defined by that *laughs* have a good one!

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  6. When I quit work to stay home with my kids, I felt like society stripped me of worth and identity. Even when I made a conscious effort not to define myself by what I do, people weighed my value in what I was doing. When I would say I was staying home with my kids, people (primarily women) would actually give me a look and an, “Oh.” It got to the point where I would simply say I eat bon bons all day and rely on my sugar daddy. At least then I got a laugh.

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    1. Its so wrong isn’t it? People (usually men in power) say how much they value motherhood yet society constantly devalues mothers! Their worth, their importance and their influence. Im sorry to hear about your experience and I love your creative response.

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