I’ve written a number of times how I’m highly prone to feeling like I should follow expectations. And I’m probably not alone. I have come to realize that, even now, I regularly hear the societal expectations for retirement. And for early retirement. And for retirement of an “executive woman”. Looking back on my own Retirement Transition, I wanted to share what I feel some of those (spoken and unspoken) expectations are and how I am (still) working to know myself better so I can focus on what I want, versus what society dictates.
Since I’m becoming more aware of when I “hear expectations”, I noticed them again in a few blog posts related to retirement. I’ve probably done my fair share of setting them up as well as I do often present “how to” blog posts on retirement!
In retirement, you are expected to:
- Spend more time with your grandkids.
- Volunteer regularly.
- Travel regularly. I heard the term gray-nomad recently on this one.
- Have a meaningful hobby – creative is best or something to “master”.
- Play golf regularly, or pickle-ball at least. Tennis or even a runner’s club works, too.
- Downsize, or at least de-clutter (don’t leave it all for your kids to deal with!)
- Eat healthy – pick a trend – clean, smoothies, vegan.
- Exercise regularly – of course that includes daily walks.
- Find a part time job to keep you occupied.
If you’re an early retiree, add in have a second career (a big expectation!). If you’re a retired executive woman, make that volunteer work a board position, of course, and do something to use your skills to give back.
I’ve recently realized that another current societal expectation for a retiree was you’ve figured out the system and gotten your vaccine. My “I’m not old enough to be eligible” explanatory response for not meeting this expectation was not well accepted.
Yes, some retirees fully meet many of these expectations. For many, fulfilling some of these expectations is exactly what they want. But what if you don’t. How do you manage to not feel like a retirement-failure? How do you separate out personal choice from societal expectation?
I have spent quite a bit of time to figure out really what I want in retirement, versus what I thought was expected of me. It is more than understanding my own values versus family, societal, or cultural values. I’ve found it helpful to know my strengths (link for VIA signature strength understanding here ) and them look at how I can utilize those strengths outside of work (link here for good article on that). I needed to really understand my self-limiting beliefs; knowing my Enneagram also helped here (blog link here). And I needed to become more aware of when I “hear” societal expectations – from the comment of getting vaccine, to the various blog posts on retirement transition how to. And then not allowing my critical inner voice to tell me I am less-than when I see others doing the “right things” in retirement.
My goal is to be able to say, I choose to do this (or I choose not to do that), because of my values & my interests.
For someone who is ingrained to meet or exceed expectations, desires to be perceived as the “good girl”, and still requires a lot of external validation, it is very difficult to stop trying to have the “right kind of retirement”. I don’t have grandkids. I don’t volunteer and am not a board member anywhere. I’m not de-cluttering, even with the move. I’m stopping my attempts to have a second career (or trying to stop them; it never really materialized anyway). I do not have a meaningful hobby, play any sport, have a part time job, nor travel regularly. I do exercise more than I ever did (yoga, zumba, beach walks) and try to eat more healthy, but not to the level of green smoothies, vegan dinners, or clean diet. I spend my days learning new things of interest, connecting with others, and enjoying quiet time. Am I failing at the right kind of a 21st Century Purposeful Retirement? Maybe. But then, I tend to be my own worst critic!
Do you hear the societal expectations around retirement or is it just me?
Picture Credit: Me. The last sunrise picture for a few months – combination of time change and longer days means fewer mornings where I’ll be up before the sun!