My favorite definition of vitality is “the power to live or grow”. I retired from work in June, and I’m thinking of it as a beginning of the next part of my life – one full of freedom and choices and vitality.
In the United States, the idea of the “golden years” of retirement was created after World War II to encourage older workers to leave the workplace to make room for younger workers returning from the war. Before that, people just worked until they physically couldn’t do the work, or died. For the last 50 years the idea of retirement – years of leisure after the end of a person’s work life – has come to be seen as a right. But that view of retirement is more about withdrawal or retreat, and less about continued engagement in the world. That’s not the kind of retirement I’m planning.
In the workplace I served my employer and its clients. My expertise grew with time and experience, but the limitations of office politics dulled my enthusiasm. During the last few years I’ve worked mainly for the money, the benefits and the pension, to prepare for a retirement full of freedom.
For me, ending my work life means opening up time to use in pursuit of my dreams and passions. I won’t just be sleeping late or playing golf or reading in a hammock. My plans include taking classes in mediation, teaching English as a second language, and learning to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I’ve learned that when I’m of service within my community and beyond, I’m engaged and excited about my life. I’m 61, but my mind is alert and active and curious. My body is healthy and strong. I see myself as a woman with vitality, and I’ll be able to apply my life experience – wisdom, flexibility and enthusiasm – to projects bigger than me. And, if I’m on a path that isn’t satisfying, I can choose a different path.
I’m looking at the next years of my life – with all its possibilities for greater vitality – through eyes of wonder.