I was perched on a green padded stool at my favorite watering hole waiting for my Long Lost Cousin to join me. We were recently re-united after fifty years!
After a few minutes, he climbed up onto a stool next to me and said in a choked voice: “I’m a bag of nerves since I retired.”
He did look pale and drawn.
“What’s the matter?’ I said, signaling the bartender for two more beers.
“I don’t want a beer, get me a whiskey.”
The bartender served up our drinks in record time.
“Now, that we have the drinks we want, what is all the anxiety about?”
“I had a dream last night and this voice kept asking me questions.”
“What did this voice say?”
“Well, it started out saying: “Now that you’re retired,” and then it continued, “Who are you? Where are you going? And where do you belong?”
My cousin’s eyes were bulging out of his head!
“Oh, it’s the old bug-a-boo, “Identity Crisis.”
“Yes, it’s a crisis alright! Ever since I retired from my job of 25 years, I’ve been at loose ends.”
My cousin drank his whiskey and ordered another!
“You retired a couple of years ago. How did you cope with those questions?”
LLC stared at me waiting for my wisdom.
“Well, I think it boils down to identity management, in other words, changing your identity. Get out of the work box you were in for 25 years!”
“Okay cousin, I repeat, how did you answer those questions?”
My LLC was pushing me for answers. I hoped I could satisfy him.
He broke into my thoughts and said: “And another thing, I feel like I’m invisible since I retired. People seem to ignore me! Why is that?”
“Boy oh boy, cousin, you’re really bombarding me with questions. Maybe we can tie both problems together. The identity crisis and the invisible feelings.”
We sat in silence for a minute. My cousin was shifting his weight on the stool.
“Well, lets start with the thought that we live in a “youth-obsessed” society and also a “work-oriented” society. So, when you retire, people tend to think you’re no longer a person of interest! Your opinions are not noteworthy! That is a prejudice that many people hold.”
“That’s a nasty prejudice to have,” said my cousin, angrily.
“Granted, but it’s a fact of life!”
“So, what do we do about it?” LLC was demanding.
“We have many identities, but when we retire from our life-time work, we lose that framework identity. So, we have to grow another identity, so to speak.”
“How do we do that?”
“By cultivating different interests. Every action we take has meaning to us and to others. This is why it is critical to shape our identities to our present circumstances.”
“I’m confused,” said LLC, rolling his eyes.
“Well, our identities are not fixed, they can be changed. Your new identity could bring more pleasure and happiness into your life. It’s great to explore new realities and ways of being.”
“It’s starting to get clearer.”
“Okay, let me answer those questions that I came to grips with when I retired. Then you can use my example as a guide.”
“When I retired I knew I would need some interest to fill the hours and to fulfill me as a person. I was always interested in writing but my daily work life used up most of my time. Now, I was free to create another identity. I began writing again.”
“That must have been a great feeling.”
“It was cousin, now let me answer the questions:
Who Am I?-I’m Writer Dave, a writer who gets great satisfaction out of creating stories and having them read by others. I belong to writer groups and I attend writer conferences that give me a wider social context. I also feel that I am a separate and unique individual, which is very important.”
I took a deep breath and continued:
Where Am I Going?-I’m directing my life toward learning how to write better. My goals are to write my blog and more novels in the future.
Where Do I Belong?-I belong and am accepted in the writer circles that I circulate in.”
“Wow! That’s great cousin. You sound very satisfied.”
“I’ll leave you with this, the older I get, the more I understand how my mind works. My identity is an essential part of my being which gives me satisfaction and stability in my life.”
“Cousin, I feel better already.”
And with that, my LLC left the building!