I have a friend who has recently retired from a career of working with children. I smile as I talk with her because there are so many similarities in how each of us faced retiring from the children. Right now, she is in the process of evaluating her replacement. Because she left behind so many friends, she is still privy to the conversations that go on about the daily activities at her former school. Because she has been on top of the educational jargon and trends, she still has an informed opinion on how to handle situations with kids, families, and teachers.
Next year, she will feel a little less concerned about what is going on in the schools, and the following year, even more so. And then, because she will have had a few years out of that environment, she will not feel on top of the data and trends to have such an informed opinion.
All of these things are the natural flow of letting go. For many of us, our ego is tightly wrapped up in our careers, especially as we pride ourselves with the training and education and licenses and certificates to PROVE we were important in our field. And then, as the years go by, this becomes less important. We become further removed from being the “expert,” and after we resign ourselves to that fact, we start the process of recreating ourselves.
While reading this morning, I was reminded that Odysseus went through the same process, after returning home from ten years of war at sea and an additional ten years of wandering. He was confused with his identitiy. In a dream, a soothsayer came to him and told him to take his favorite oar and travel inland until no one had heard his name. And then he was to travel further inland until no one knew what an oar was. And in that place, he was to plant his oar and plant a garden.
In retirement, as in any time of starting fresh, whether we are downsized from our job or lose our job, we are reminded that it is okay to plant our oar, to use it in a new way. We might think of our careers as a water glass, and we are the water within. Sometimes we are poured into a new glass. We can adapt our skills to fill the new glass.