Who Am I?

One of the important needs that working full-time met for me was providing me with a strong sense of identity, especially since I was a workaholic with no children and no hobbies. Recall the 5 important needs that a full-time career provides: Financial Compensation, Structure & Routine, Accomplishment & Utility, Social Affiliation, and Identity & Status (see previous blog posts). Since I retired, creating a new identity has been an ongoing challenge for me. It is a challenge that a few other new retirees/ soon-to-be retirees have recently talked about as well.

I am not sure why, but I feel a strong need to have a defining term for who I am. I feel like I need this defining term to respond when I am asked: what do you do?

In this retirement transition phase of Liberation and Self-discovery (Age Wave/Merrill Lynch retirement survey), I spent time defining what/who I wanted to become. My life vision has some very clear elements. I want to release my sense of adventure, be more physically active, and create stronger connections with others. In this new stage of life, I’ve committed to focusing on leisure (learning how to live) with part-time work taking up only 25% of my time. Yet, it has been decidedly uncomfortable to break free of my workaholic-based identity and embrace a leisure identity.

I am a Recovering Workaholic. But that as an identity statement is too back-focused and a bit too flippant for the wonderful elements that the 12-step programs do provide.

My self-discovery work identified that I am a Foodie-wannabe, a Latent Adventurer, and a Structure Girl. All very much define me, but would they mean anything to anyone else if I used them to define myself?

I did try Writer, but then was always asked what I’ve published. I’ve redefined it to the reality of I’m a Blogger, and currently un-published writer. Not too inspiring.

I’ve considered various terms like Financially Independent Goof-off, Self-sponsored Joy Seeker, Vision Concierge, and Life-style Manager.  Quite fun, but a bit meaningless.

On the professional side of things (because I still do work 25% of my time), I am a Retirement Life Coach that uses personal innovation as a platform. I am also a Freelance Product Innovation Strategist. So, when it’s a professional networking connection, I have fallen back to “Innovation Consultant”.   A broad, generally appealing term to which people can relate.  But is it truly reflective of my total identity?   No, it’s my 25% work side only.

I’ve been reading some discussions about the new Gig economy, which has created the hyphened identity. Beyond the well-known actor-waiter identity, there are now lots of people, Millennial and beyond, who have a side-hustle along with the regular “identity” job. Or maybe their side-hustle is closer to their identify definition.  Perhaps a hyphened-identity statement is my answer? A Blogger – Innovation Consultant – Vision Concierge?

Have I solved my identity dilemma? No. My best response to the question of “What do you do?” is “I spent 30+ years working and now I am learning how to live.” So, what’s the name for that?

Picture credit: Pixabay

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. Your first identity in the working world didn’t come overnight – your next identity won’t either. If you were like me, back then you were more worried about paying the bills and figuring out how to get ahead on the job to stop and worry about your identity. I too am 1 year into post-corporate, phase 2 finding a new identity and it’s been such a challenge. I wonder if we are experiencing something like a grief cycle for our old identity, even though change was our choice?

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    1. Leigh – so true. I read another bloggers recent post about this transition being like any new “job” – even if you prepared for it, it still has a major learning curve. You go from just knowing what to do everyday – even if it’s not easy, you know the ropes – to not knowing how to do some of the simplest tasks of the new job. And you can only use the newbie card for so long! I also continue to interface with folks still doing the old-job, and while their stress is definitely higher, they still have mastery of the work. For me, I don’t think there is any more grief going on (might be different for others!), but I am definitely dealing with being the newbie. Going from mastery to being a beginner is tough for me, especially as wisdom is one of my core values.

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  2. I really agree with the previous reply that included ” I think that usually people ask the “What do you do?” question because they are looking for common ground or an interesting topic of conversation (or they ask because they want you to ask them) so, in reality, what you answer isn’t as important as “does it help the conversation along”. Maybe that’s why, when we answer simply, “I’m retired” without any more info, the conversation can stop. “I’m retired from my full-time job so now I get to pursue my passions as a writer and life coach” (or, something like that) might be just the answer that gets the conversation going.
    But in addition, I retired last year and have barely looked back! When you converse with people who are at the same life stage, you don’t worry as much about having a descriptor for what you’re doing with yourself in retirement. I’m so much more relaxed and just taking time to know who I am without needing to define myself by a job or role. I’ve let it go.

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    1. Very insightful… . it is about connecting. I still interface with most people who are NOT retired! The have a hard time contemplating days where you simply choose what you want to to. Maybe its also a bit of jealously… they can also see how happy and unstressed I’ve become. More than one previous colleague has committed I look 10 years younger, which made me think I looked terrible 2 years ago! I’m trying to let it go, this need for an easy answer or an identity statement. I’m finding that the “I’m a recovering workaholic and learning how to live” opens up the conversation if its a more lighthearted encounter.

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  3. I like your last response best of all (“I spent 30+ years working and now I am learning how to live.”)!

    I’m sorry that we sometimes feel that we have to define ourselves by what we do – or did. Too bad people don’t instead ask, “what do you do for fun?” or, “what adventures have you been on lately?” If someone is asked about their profession, what does the answer really say about them as a person? I think that usually people ask the “What do you do?” question because they are looking for common ground or an interesting topic of conversation (or they ask because they want you to ask them) so, in reality, what you answer isn’t as important as “does it help the conversation along”. Maybe that’s why, when we answer simply, “I’m retired” without any more info, the conversation can stop. “I’m retired from my full-time job so now I get to pursue my passions as a writer and life coach” (or, something like that) might be just the answer that gets the conversation going.

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