Unlike some people, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t have a singular talent or focus. My best subject was English, and I was decent writer, so I went with the only thing I was any good at and majored in journalism. That led to a surprisingly lucrative career in corporate communications.
But like so many others, I tried to define myself through work. And even in retirement, I’ve struggled with it. Perhaps it’s like this for everyone. Maybe you were a nurse or an engineer, you think, well, that’s what I did. That’s who I am. But if I’m not doing it anymore, who am I now?
I didn’t think of myself as a writer. I was a communications professional by trade, and writing was one of my competencies. My skills served me well, but it didn’t seem like enough. Part of me always thought or hoped there was a brilliant writer in there somewhere waiting to be released from the tyranny of having to earn a living.
It has been four years now since I retired, and my secret genius is nowhere to be found. At first, I was like, bitch, show your face! But I don’t know. Lately, I’ve been thinking, good riddance. Why should I hang onto a dream I fabricated as a child because it’s the only thing I could come up with at the time?
Retirement is different for everyone, but it can be a journey toward freeing ourselves from expectations and accepting we don’t have to be more than we are. Shedding layers and perhaps defining our self-image.
When I was working, we were supposed to have an elevator speech – a quick but memorable sound bite to introduce ourselves and convince someone we were all that and a bag of chips.
I never came up with a good elevator speech, but I’ve been working on the new and improved retirement version. Here goes:
Most days I’m a decent human being with a multitude of interests who enjoys life and sometimes writes.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.