It is often said about retirement that one of the hardest adjustments is losing your work identity. It's natural to identify with your job. When people meet you, it is often among the first questions they ask you, what you do for a living. When you have been in a career for decades, you become more and more identified with your work as time goes on. I work in the finance/accounting field, and most of my friends would say my personality integrates many accountant-like qualities (although a much more outgoing, chatty version of the stereotype).
Either from being attracted to this profession in the first place or as an evolution of my self firmly into my CPA persona, I pretty much look like an accountant. The clothes and and jewelry I wear, how I wear my hair, and the car I drive, are all relatively conservative. It is clear from looking at me that I am not an artist, musician, or designer.
Do I mourn the loss of this identity? No way baby! I can't wait to toss these green eye shades! I can't wait to reinvent myself! I can't wait to donate all these Ann Taylor separates to Goodwill and maybe even get an edgy haircut. Maybe I'll even change my hair color. If I don't have to go into work the next day after such a risk, it doesn't feel risky at all! The big question now is, who do I want to be? What do I want to look like? It's a blank canvas and I get to paint any picture I want!
Will I be wearing tennis clothes all around town after having played a few sets with a friend? Will I even get out of those dirty jeans after digging in the dirt in my garden before leaving my house? Or do I need to get a whole new wardrobe to convey to the world that now I'm a blogger, a writer, someone creative? (And what would those clothes look like anyway?) Since I love to sew, maybe I will be able to create my own unique look! Maybe I'll look like those cool-looking people in the Gap adds. Maybe I'll shop at the teenager shops. (Well, maybe not, I'm drawing the line at Botox, so dressing like a teenager with these lines in my face might just look pathetic.) But hey, if pathetic is the direction I want to go, I get to!
I think it's really exciting to get a whole new chance to be whoever I want to be in the second half of my life. I'm going to seize the opportunity to be a person that doesn't worry so much about what others think of her, who isn't afraid of looking silly, who doesn't beat herself up so much when she sticks her foot in her mouth, and who doesn't really care how bad she sounds at karaoke. Cover your ears ladies and gentlemen, because Syd is almost retired!
Oh Boy!!!! I can't wait for the NEW you...although I think that the OLD you was pretty cute!!!!
Don't throw away those Ann Taylor Separates YET. I'm still working and don't have a thing to wear!!!
BTW....I went to the 1/2 price sale at the GoodWill Store today. It seems like a whole new place when you are looking for wild belts and tight jeans. Check it out after you drop off your Old Ann Taylor stuff at my house!!!!
Really....I might fit into SOMETHING!
Posted by: Wicked in San Jose | February 06, 2008 at 03:48 PM
Thank you for your honest discussion about retirement and our connection to our past careers. I have been retired for about 2 months and it is the hardest thing to adjust to. I remember the first time someone asked me post retirement "what do you do for a living?" I started to panic. I felt like I had lost my identity! But I went home and took some time to continue reflecting on why I retired and the "to do" items on my list and felt instantly better. I too am looking for a place to use my prior skills in the volunteer field and look forward to something new and challenging! And I LOVE not having to wear heels and having time to work out and wear work out clothes instead of business clothes! I feel very blessed to be able to be retired and have the time to pursue new adventures! Thank you again.....
Posted by: Joyce McLaren | November 04, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Thank you Joyce for your comment. Good luck at discovering the new you!
Posted by: Retired Syd | November 04, 2013 at 12:52 PM
Hi Sydney, I really enjoyed reading this article. My parents have recently retired and are going through this exact crisis. After working they're entire lives, they're left a little.... lost. Ive sent them a link to your blog, I think they would really love it. Good luck in re-discovering the new you!
Posted by: Louise Procter | March 01, 2017 at 04:49 PM