Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Since I’ve posted blogs about what it has been like turning 55 and 60, it’s time to continue my every-five-year tradition now that I have reached the great age of 65 this month.
Thankfully I’m reaching this age (relatively) healthy, and still madly in love with the same person I’ve been with since the age of 18. And as far as I am concerned, these are far and away the two most important things. Particularly coming from a family where many of my male relatives, including my dad, died in their 60s and early 70s.
That said, turning 65 has been a huge life change from the 55-year-old or 60-year-old Rich. Or even the 64-year-old Rich. Why? Because at each of those ages my prime focus, like many male breadwinners, was actively furthering my career. At age 55 I was just starting a new half-time profession as a psychotherapist. At age 60 I had recently released a national bestseller on handling difficult customer situations, and was making a very good living writing, speaking, training and doing therapy.
At 65, by comparison, I am inescapably transitioning to retirement. I am starting Social Security and Medicare, and I joke that my “platform” nowadays largely consists of being an elderly mall walker. And to be honest, I had NO idea what a big emotional change that would be – especially for someone whose life frankly revolved around his work.
You see, I thought I had retirement all figured out. I would just do less of the things I always did, and relax and travel more. Easy-peasy. Instead, I discovered how frightfully hard it is to take on responsibilities, particularly major ones, when you don’t HAVE to anymore. Add in a health scare involving my heart, and I ultimately found myself stepping away from most of my remaining work commitments this fall.
I would liken this to being a tightrope walker in the circus. You do it every night for years, and it feels like your life’s purpose. But then one day as retirement approaches, you look up at the wire and say, “WHOA, that’s a long way down!” And then that part of your life is over, and a huge part of your identity along with it.
Perhaps another good analogy is the empty-nest mother. For years she takes pride in raising her family, and her life revolves around her kids. But then the last one leaves the nest, and she can’t ever go back to changing diapers or packing school lunches ever again. Much like I couldn’t see going back to work again for its own sake.
So what am I doing now? Still writing for a couple of clients I enjoy working for. Doing a little bit of counseling and case consultation. Finishing up my long-delayed “A Therapist’s Guide to Happiness” book, which I hope to self-publish in the near future. Promoting my new small talk skills book. Spending more quality time with Colleen. But also, going through a big and very emotional transition of figuring out what comes next. Not to mention trying to come to terms with things like thoughts of aging and mortality, which a busy and successful career used to do a good job of pushing aside.
I have always been an optimist, and expect a new phase of my life to emerge from this period of transition – hopefully sooner rather than later. I do know that nowadays, connection with people seems a lot more important to me than achievement. And as with my previous career, I still want to find ways to help others and be part of a community. Stay tuned for the next chapter.