My recent retirement got me to thinking about the different identities we take on as we journey through life, and the angst and confusion we experience as we transition from one to another. We start out with Kid Identity Cards, which define us for the first 10 to 12 years of our lives. Near the end of that phase, typically with great anticipation, we receive our Teenager Card. Although we get new cards as we move through life, we never really get rid of the old ones, they just move little farther down in the deck, where we can still reach them if their needed. As an example, with some angst, teenagers bring out their Kid Card at Halloween because they like the idea of the fun and goodies of trick or treating but are conflicted about possibly tarnishing their coolness factor by wearing costumes. Another example is middle-aged adults, struggling with an identity crisis. They summon all of their poor judgement by pulling up old cards in a vain attempt, to re-capture their youth. Think…twenty-something clothing on a forty-something body….or the eight-inch long hair comb-over swirled around a follicle wasteland. Not pretty images are they?
Teenager Cards give way around 18 or 19 years of age, to College Student Cards, then to 20 Something Cards, then Married, Parent, and Career Cards, although not necessarily in that order. These last three, are the cards that we hold the longest and become our strongest identities. Later on of course, Grandparent Cards, Retiree Cards, Seniors Cards, and finally Elderly Cards are issued, but again, not necessarily in that order.
Unfortunately, for my wife and children, my Career Card spent a lot of time at the top of my identity deck. Some impacts on them were obvious, like my frequent absences on business travel and weeknight and weekend work. Other impacts, like the missed emotional connection opportunities, when I was there physically, but not mentally, were maybe less visible, but perhaps more damaging. Throughout it all though, they stood by me. In fact, they, through their sacrifice and support, they are as much responsible for my achievements as I am. I’ve certainly tried to be a good husband and father, and I’ve had a wonderful, fulfilling career, but I often wonder if I “coulda and shoulda” had a different stacking order of my identity cards.
So, now that I’ve retired, there’s this new card at the top of my deck. I haven’t got the Career Card that I’ve held for more than 39 years. I’ve been given this new Retiree identity. I’ve been told the basics about it, and I’ve imagined how it might be, but I’m still trying to figure it out and have it become natural. In a way I suppose, it’s like entering into the Witness Protection Program and being given a new name and occupation to learn overnight. And according to what I’ve read, my life expectancy and the future quality of life for my family and me are highly dependent on how well I adapt to this new identity. No pressure at all…right! The good news is that while I’m working on how to learn to be a successful Retiree, maybe I can get my Husband, Parent and Grandparent Cards back on the top of the stack where they belong.
Each day is a brand new day. Today is certainly one of them.
As far as I am concerned, you have always had your Parent and Grandparent card on top. Dad, I love you and you are the BEST! Never absent in any way except for when you were physically away on business. Just today I was bragging about you when Mikayla said she saw a space shuttle in the sky. Just maybe she’ll follow in your footsteps. Boy oh boy those would be big shoes to fill! Love the blog and can’t wait to read your next entry!
Excellent Don.The metaphor strikes home although I’m still confused by having to use 2 or 3 of them at the same time. At the end of the day we are all still 10 years old and bewildered.I think you are going to make retirement work.
You put your life so beatifully in your words. I know you will find great joy doing what you want instead of what others want from you. I know I have enjoyed the freedom to spend time with family, friends and do what I love most. I know you will be missed at work and hopefully now that you are gone those who didn’t appreciate you will realize the loss.