“My purpose is to try and learn how to live in the moment. Say yes to whatever seems to be calling…Be loving and kind, and that’s kinda it.” ~ Gail W.
We’re continuing the series on folks who are seeking fulfillment in life’s third quarter — the stage of life where people have traditionally retired after long careers. As they have done throughout their lives, this generation seems to be re-defining this life stage.
Some are truly retired — for now. Some are semi-retired — maybe still working, but not as hard as they have in the past. And others are somewhere in between.
Regardless of how they label themselves, they are all looking for meaning and fulfillment just as their generation has done throughout their lives.
“Retired is just not a word that works for me”
Gail W. is in her early 70s. She feels that retirement comes after having worked for an organization for thirty years, obtained a pension, and “life is good. I don’t have that.”
For 25 years, Gail worked independently, teaching and running her own publishing business. She can’t imagine not being involved in some sort of creative activity.
(Full disclosure: Gail is my cousin.)
Finding purpose in life transitions
In the past couple of years, within a space of six months, Gail experienced some major life transitions: Her husband passed away, ending a 15-year love affair; her best friend from college died; and her mother passed at 99. In addition, she’s changing the business model of her publishing company.
“I had all those losses, and I had the addition of three grandchildren. I find myself craving being with these grandkids…And I’m doing the calculations. I’m going to be pretty old when my grandchildren are in their 20s. I have the next 10 to 15 years to make life be whatever I want it to be and it’s clear that it’s going to include a lot of grandchildren stuff…”
“…and I don’t know what that means.”
Kicking the can down the road
Gail recently applied for a Peace Corps position to teach English at a university in Mexico. However, her ESL (English as a Second Language) credentials were not strong enough to satisfy the Peace Corps’ requirements.
She realized, though, that the motivation for applying was really the opportunity to “kick the can down the road” for two years. “I wouldn’t have to think about purpose or intention for two whole years. That was the biggest disappointment — that I’d have to wrestle with this question of what I do next.”
“Most of my life I have listened to what has resonated for me…which provided the confidence to think for myself and to be open to other points of view…I’ve never followed rules that didn’t make sense to me…I wasn’t subversive; I wasn’t looking to hurt anyone, I’m just not much of a rule follower just for the sake of following rules.”
Gail has always asked herself “if money didn’t matter, what would she do?” She’s used the question to evaluate where she was in life and what she should do next. Currently, when she considers it, she realizes that the answer is exactly what she’s dong now — “trying to figure out what I want to do.”
A twenty year do over
Gail noted that the 20 years between her 50th and 70th birthdays were a great time. “I loved that twenty-year timeframe. I’m gonna do a do-over.” As she embraced that mindset, Gail felt her brain and her body shifting. “It’s my way of staying healthy and vibrant until the week before I die — that’s all I want.”
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