A few weeks ago I attended a celebration where I had opportunity to meet many former colleagues. These people were important to me in my career — they were in my network. I interacted regularly with all of them — sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly and sometimes daily.
It was wonderful to see them but aside from checking in, there was little that we had in common.
I realized that I had moved on …. and so had each of them.
Some people had retired — as I had. Some had moved on to other jobs and other fields of work. Some were still in their respective organizations but looking forward to their own retirement.
“So how do you like retirement?”
This question was the conversation starter in most encounters.
As the afternoon progressed I grew tired of answering the question. Answering started to feel repetitive and like a pain in the you-know-where.
Was I the first person ever known to retire? Was I doing something unique and worthy of comment? Whether I liked it or not, the truth was that I had retired.
Most of the time, it did not feel like the person really listened to my answer. Sometimes I felt like saying something outlandish just to check out whether or not my answer mattered.
“You’re looking so good…..”
This comment was the next statement in most conversations.
Did it mean that I looked bad previous to retirement? I always prided myself with putting in a good appearance so this caused me to wonder what was meant.
Perhaps the expectation was that I had looked good in a earlier time and that I would look bad — or worse after retirement?
The reality is that I look much the same as I did during my career days.
I weigh slightly less because I have time for regular exercise and I have a few more wrinkles because I’m a couple of years older — but my ‘look’, style of dress, and demeanor are all similar to the past.
Responses for these conversation openers
If the conversation is social ‘small talk’, then a good response to the “so how do you like retirement?” inquiry is a pleasant statement that offers little information. After all, the person is just finding a way to greet you.
If the question “so how do you like retirement?” is authentic and the person seems genuinely interested, than you can offer a short but honest description of how you experience retirement.
If you miss work, say so with a short description of what you miss about work. If you are finding retirement a ticket to freedom, say that. If retirement is boring and you are looking for new options, telling others may be a way to get some doors opened for you.
With respect to the comment about how you look, perhaps a simple ‘thank-you’ is all that is needed. Give the person making the statement the benefit of doubt and accept it as a compliment.
“Sooner or later we’ve all got to let go of our past”
quote from Dan Brown, Deception Point
As I thought about this event and the encounters with so many people who were part of my life in times past, I realized that we were letting go of each other and letting go of our past.
When I retired I made the firm decision to move ahead with my life. I knew what aspects of life were valuable to me and not subject to the approval of others.
Retirement was something I wanted. The decision I made was in my direct control. I had a plan for how I wanted to spend my time. I had a plan for the lifestyle I wanted in the remaining years of my life.
“Letting go means to come to the realization that some people are a part of your history but not a part of your destiny.”
quote from Steve Maraboli
Attending this industry event and having contact with so many people who were important to me in my career made me understand that I had truly moved on. They, too, had moved on and that was fine with me. We were able to let go of our respective pasts.
What are your experiences with retirement? Has it met your expectations? How do you react when you meet former colleagues? Please let me know in your comments.
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