A Job Will Never Define Me

Most people in retirement express a tremendous sense of loss when they no longer have a job to report to. I find such thinking (or feeling) to be so contradictive to my own sense of retirement. Jobs never defined me. I defined myself. I never found any value in working for a living. Quite the contrary. I found jobs or working for the ‘man’ to be a hindrance to my own true sense of self.

Think about this for a minute: when you were a child, you were you. When the time came and you had to work for a living, ‘you’ became someone else. ‘You’ no longer could think for yourself because there was someone now telling ‘you’ what to do. ‘You’ could no longer express your true feelings for fear of losing your job or money flow. ‘You’ had to become like the ‘others’ in your work circle. ‘You’ had to dress differently, think differently, act differently, otherwise you’d find yourself eventually homeless, living somewhere on some unknown street, picking through garbage cans. Well, at least ‘you’ thought that’s what would happen to ‘you’ if ‘you’ didn’t comply to the powers that be in the working world.

People who work for a living, do so for decades and decades and decades. By the time they retire, they have totally forgotten who they really are/were/might have been. That’s because, in retirement, you’re back to your original ‘you’ and most people don’t know who that person is anymore.

I got my first job right after high school. I worked as a summertime bond clerk for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, New York City. Sounds exciting for a seventeen year old, right? Wrong. There’s a dress code on Wall Street and I had to wear dresses AND stockings five days a week. Know what it is like to travel on a hot subway in the summer in New York City in stockings while dressed to the nines? Painful. Excruciatingly painful. Summers, to me, was a time to enjoy the beach and swim in the ocean. Summers were dressed in cut-offs and flip flops. NOT a time to hang onto a subway stap for two hours a day, and sweat!

Once on the office platform floor, I was told what to do, how to do it, what to think, what to say, how to act, how to behave and whatever else was necessary to please some corporate boss (who, in my opinion, was just another useless human being). My first, real, notable work revelation came one morning, when both a fellow co-worker and I walked in together at 9:05 AM. We were five minutes late for work. The ‘boss’ fired my fellow co-worker right there on the spot and sent him home. I was given a warning. The only reason why I was spared was because I had lied to my boss and told him I wasn’t going to college in September. I did this because the corporate company paid workers, who they thought would be staying on, more in hourly compensation than those simply employed for the summer. From the age of 17, I knew I was not going to be a dummy. I was in the workforce for me. NOT for them. Once September rolled around, I simply quit and happily banked all that extra summertime earning cash.

How, I asked myself, after tearfully saying goodbye to my now fired fellow co-worker, is a person supposed to manage their financial lives when they are working ‘for the man’ at his or her whim? I quickly realized that there was absolutely no security in working, so I had better devise a better way of living the remainder of my life, on my own and not at the pleasure of someone else. Besides, I absolutely hated work because each second I was ‘on the job’ was a second that kept me apart from being my true, authentic self.

I’ve never been an earner, despite having two college degrees. Back when I was working as a financial budget administrator (in the early 1990’s) I was only earning $28,000 a year. I wanted to make $30,000 and asked for a raise. When I was denied, I just quit (I worked for ‘them’ for 7 years!) The company had to replace me with a real CPA and wound up paying my replacement $60,000 a year. Their stupid loss. My gain. I became more enthusiastic about dropping out of the rat race/phony work force more than ever. My ticket out of working for a living was fine tuning my frugal skills. By learning to live well, but on less (much less!) I quit my day job for good (at 50) and have never looked back.

When people ask me what I do in retirement, I tell them I do ‘me’. I’m my true, original, authentic self (the 16 year old girl is back!) who lives her life on her own terms, with her own interests, likes and dislikes, who isn’t afraid to express her opinions or feelings for fear of retribution. Because I live my life debt free, I don’t have to put up with ‘the man’ to pay a mortgage, car loan, credit card bills, expensive vacations or 85 inch flat screen TVs. I don’t have to find things to amuse myself in retirement or occupy my time or keep me busy. I’m perfectly content to sit out on my backyards and stare at these ALL.DAY.LONG:

lanai view.jpg - 1
This is my wintertime view from my lanai, from my condo on the 2nd floor
backyard
this is my summerview from my deck, from my house on 3.5 acres

I never needed a job to tell me who I am, what I think, what to do, how to act, be with ‘friends’ (we all know co-workers come and go), have a social life, give my life meaning and purpose. To me, a job was simply a means to make money. Once I got it (money, that is) I made sure I used it wisely.

My main purpose to having a job was to make sure I never had a job ever again.

My purpose in life has always been to be ME. I live the way I want. I do the things that make ME happy. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. My time is my own. No one else owns it, wastes it or abuses it in any way. Time is the priceless commodity only I get to use. If you are in retirement and find yourself longing for your working days, my advice to ‘you’ is to stop such longing right here and now. Connect back to your childhood. Remember who ‘you’ used to be and then proceed from there. You will find a more happier, satisfied ‘you’ once you get there.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.

 

 

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4 comments

  1. Hi five in being true to YOU! What lovely views from your homes. I have to imagine that somehow those views were afforded you through the work someone did to pay for them. So glad you are able to enjoy this precious chapter doing what you want to do.

    I adored my job! It was what defined me because I was many other ‘people’ aside from working 8 hours a day as an elementary school librarian. But in that role, I was teacher, nurse, friend, counselor, surrogate mother, organizer, artist, tech expert, TV personality, tutor, and librarian. Being a very shy, socially awkward person (child and adult), I bloomed around children. I often joked that I worked 8 hours a day as Mary Poppins, good or bad. Because that, too, could be very trying on a day when everything seemed to be falling down around me.

    With a college degree, I started out making $18,000 a year, raising two children as a single mom. I waitressed at Pizza Hut at night, worked summer school, tutored to make ends meet. I never ever got rich in the monetary sense but my life has been so enriched by my career and by the lives that crossed my path. And because I am so shy, I would never otherwise have met all of those tiny souls (and grown up ones, too), had I not worked.

    I think I am finally in a place where I can move on after grieving for a few years over the career I had to leave behind. Like you, I am enjoying life and glad to have the time and the money to afford to do the crafts I like, buy the books to read, go on simple vacations and road trips, pay off my Christmas credit card debt.

    We are so fortunate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Leslie, you’re one of the few, lucky fortunate people, who dedicate themselves to the betterment of others and ENJOY doing so. People like you are so appreciated. I had money-hungry parents who manipulated my working career so much that I grew to despise it. I’m a very creative, round individual who can not be forced into a square peg hole. It wasn’t until I finally achieved financial independence and I could finally live my own life the way I wanted to, in the manner I wanted to, at the budget I wanted to, that I finally found my true authentic self. My sister is the same as me. It wasn’t until she shed the tentacles of our parents, and retired here in Florida, at the age of 60, did she find her true self. She is now an award-winning, graphic design photographer who will be having her first show next Saturday (I’ll post pictures). She went back to school and after 3 years will be graduating with honors! She adores what she is doing. And I’m happily (finally) doing what I do best also. It’s just sad for us sometimes when we realize we are in our 60’s and if our parents had left us alone, who knows what creative heights we would have mastered and ascertained.
      But you can’t go backwards. Only forward.
      I’m just so glad I don’t have to work for a living anymore.
      I’m happy for you that you are content in your place in our world. Enjoy Leslie. This is the best years of our lives!

      Like

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