Does Retirement Equal Irrelevance?

I’ve been surrounded by thoughts on irrelevance.

A blogger, that I recently began to follow, shared that she was overwhelmed with feelings of non-importance as she completed her final term of full-time work and prepared for retirement.

While I was mentally composing a reply, I glanced at a television program that my husband was watching. Irrelevance of the aging seemed to be the entire plot.

My head reeled with frustration.

I fired up Google and typed in the words “retirement” and “irrelevance”. The first article in my search encouraged me to embrace, and enjoy, my insignificance. The second suggested that I get a tattoo.

I wanted to scream!

As I near the one-year mark of my retirement, it is a great time to stop and reflect.

I loved my job, had tons of responsibility, and people regularly sought my advice. I worked with incredible colleagues and was part of something in which I truly believed. I am very proud of that. When I retired, my position was filled by an exceptional candidate who continued on where I left off. No chain was broken. I joked as I left that within a few months everyone would say “Donna who?”. It made people laugh. But it wasn’t really a joke.

Since I’ve retired, I have regained blissful heaps of family time. Throughout my retirement, I have had the privilege of extended, non-rushed, quality time with my husband, my sons and their partners, my mother, my stepfather, my niece as well as my husband’s family. I was able to be there the day that my first grandchild was born. I will be there again when our second grandchild is born this coming November. I have been able to spend time with my dearest of friends—one of whom I have known for over 44 years and others who have crossed the divide from colleagues to lifelong friends.

I am no longer responding to a job description. There is no one to whom I must report. I have been given the freedom to be me. Full on.

All of the people mentioned above are a significant part of my life. They are my life. I have known some of them for their entire existence, or for mine. They are unconditionally there for me, and I for them. When one of us is no longer here, there won’t be a posted job description or replacement. As with my father, my sister and my grandparents who have preceded me, a chain will be broken. But also, like these cherished family members, we will continue to live on in each. People will recognize my mom’s smile in mine; my laugh in my son’s.

I close my eyes and shudder at how lucky I am to have the luxury of uninterrupted time to spend with the people that I love. When they call, I can and will be there. I have never felt so relevant.

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13 Replies to “Does Retirement Equal Irrelevance?”

  1. Hey Donna! I think you are only as irrelevant as you want to be! I often find myself slipping back into the teaching mode when I am at the pool and someone needs help with stroke improvement. As for being a salesperson in my second career I am helping out at Hope’s school for three days setting up a fund raiser flea market. As long as there is purpose in ones life they can not be irrelevant !

      1. My sentiments with Sam…..I try to do some volunteer work every year! June is busy Heart and Stroke canvassing and Scorer for PGA golf tourney. Purpose gives us revelevance, enjoy!

  2. Well said. The blogger that you have begun to follow may have a difficult adjustment ahead as retirement approaches. Self worth needs to be separated from professional ladder climbing. So many of us spend our lives letting our jobs define us. Retirement allows us to discover who we really are.

    1. “Retirement allows us to discover who we really are” — now that is really well said! Thanks for contributing, Carol!
      Donna

  3. Donna, just for the record your leadership legacy and the kindness that accompanied it has not been forgotten. The more I learn, the more I think of you. Remember your advice to me about the importance of relationships? This post highlights a similar message through a different lens. 🙂 Hugs, Kelsey

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words, Kelsey–they are greatly appreciated. I look forward to us keeping in touch for many years to come.
      Warmly, Donna

  4. Retired, but certainly not irrelevant! I guess our social sphere adjusts as we move through life (I’m probably relatively irrelevant to most 6-year-olds and hedge fund managers, for instance), but among my friends, family, and people who I engage with I am most relevant! Adjustment to retirement can be hard if the retiree identifies themselves strongly with what they did for a living, not what they are currently doing in life. Sometimes it takes awhile to re-focus their sense of self.

  5. Hi Donna, I don’t think you become irrelevant – just relevant to different people, in different ways. And you are so right. This retirement allows us to break out of the “career relevance” and spread ourselves around to so many more people, ideas and activities. It’s sort of a “relevance renewal” if you will! You are having such an impact on sooooo many people now! Irrelevant, my foot! Have a wonderful, meaningful weekend! ~ Lynn

  6. Hmmm, maybe I’ll just go get a tattoo.

    Seriously, though, I completely agree that spending time with family and dear friends is a great source of joy, and to our loved ones we are always relevant. A major problem with working is lacking time to be with the ones we care about and to pursue our passions – and this is often the motivation behind the decision to retire.

    Perhaps my existential crisis is a bit overblown.

    Jude

    1. Thanks, Jude. I love your blog — and the questions that you pose. You definitely have provoked much deep thinking for me. Donna

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