One of the important needs that working full-time met for me was providing me with a strong sense of identity, especially since I was a workaholic with no children and no hobbies. Recall the 5 important needs that a full-time career provides: Financial Compensation, Structure & Routine, Accomplishment & Utility, Social Affiliation, and Identity & Status (see previous blog posts). Since I retired, creating a new identity has been an ongoing challenge for me. It is a challenge that a few other new retirees/ soon-to-be retirees have recently talked about as well.
I am not sure why, but I feel a strong need to have a defining term for who I am. I feel like I need this defining term to respond when I am asked: what do you do?
In this retirement transition phase of Liberation and Self-discovery (Age Wave/Merrill Lynch retirement survey), I spent time defining what/who I wanted to become. My life vision has some very clear elements. I want to release my sense of adventure, be more physically active, and create stronger connections with others. In this new stage of life, I’ve committed to focusing on leisure (learning how to live) with part-time work taking up only 25% of my time. Yet, it has been decidedly uncomfortable to break free of my workaholic-based identity and embrace a leisure identity.
I am a Recovering Workaholic. But that as an identity statement is too back-focused and a bit too flippant for the wonderful elements that the 12-step programs do provide.
My self-discovery work identified that I am a Foodie-wannabe, a Latent Adventurer, and a Structure Girl. All very much define me, but would they mean anything to anyone else if I used them to define myself?
I did try Writer, but then was always asked what I’ve published. I’ve redefined it to the reality of I’m a Blogger, and currently un-published writer. Not too inspiring.
I’ve considered various terms like Financially Independent Goof-off, Self-sponsored Joy Seeker, Vision Concierge, and Life-style Manager. Quite fun, but a bit meaningless.
On the professional side of things (because I still do work 25% of my time), I am a Retirement Life Coach that uses personal innovation as a platform. I am also a Freelance Product Innovation Strategist. So, when it’s a professional networking connection, I have fallen back to “Innovation Consultant”. A broad, generally appealing term to which people can relate. But is it truly reflective of my total identity? No, it’s my 25% work side only.
I’ve been reading some discussions about the new Gig economy, which has created the hyphened identity. Beyond the well-known actor-waiter identity, there are now lots of people, Millennial and beyond, who have a side-hustle along with the regular “identity” job. Or maybe their side-hustle is closer to their identify definition. Perhaps a hyphened-identity statement is my answer? A Blogger – Innovation Consultant – Vision Concierge?
Have I solved my identity dilemma? No. My best response to the question of “What do you do?” is “I spent 30+ years working and now I am learning how to live.” So, what’s the name for that?
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