Time for a little lightness in this retirement world. You will need to wait to the end of this blog to find out the significance of the image on the right. I recently received the ‘message’ below from a friend in Australia, where else you will say when you read it? It set me thinking, although I doubt whether this was the intention of my friend and perversely it didn’t take me in the obvious direction of the title, i.e. should a retired person have an occupation or a job of some kind? Is this what is needed to maintain our self-esteem at somewhere near pre-retirement levels? A decent enough question but not the one I intend to address in this blog. Let me explain. The email my Australian friend sent me was entitled:
The importance of an occupation after retirement
As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to “make a difference” in the world. It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other “seniors” who have found the courage to take on challenges that would make many of us wither.
Harold Schlumberg is such a person:
THIS IS QUOTED FROM HAROLD:
“I’ve often been asked, ‘What do you do now that you’re retired?’
Well…I’m fortunate to have a chemical engineering background and one of the things I enjoy most is converting beer, wine and whisky into urine.
It’s rewarding, uplifting, satisfying and fulfilling. I do it every day and I really enjoy it.”
Harold is an inspiration to us all
But is he? Harold is clearly a man with a well-thought through mission in retirement. He is single-minded and has a passion. I admire that in a man or woman. But then I ask myself which person is best equipped for a life of retirement, the person with one, all-consuming passion or the person with a range of interests, none of which could reasonably be described as a passionate interest? Let me confess, I am in the latter category, a classic Jack of all trades. This, in practical terms, means that the time available for any one of my retirement interests – you will remember that there are four main areas of my retirement – this blog, our vineyard (which, to our surprise, seems to be demanding all year round), my jazz workshops and, of course, the pups who are even more demanding than the vineyard – is quite limited. The pups are, as they are. Wise words, we have an obligation to them each day and that remains a constant.
The other three areas are a bit different. There are levels of skill for each of them that, with due care and attention, can be moved to a higher level. The catch is that the more interests / activities you have requiring an increasing skill level, the less successful you are likely to be at each one. Time = practice = improvement, type equation. Less time is likely to mean less improvement, not always, but as a rule of thumb. This may, I only say, may, be a problem self-esteem-wise. I have played almost no golf in the last year but played a round with my friend a couple of weeks ago while his usual partner was living in his house in Switzerland. He was desperate, so I played. In the middle of the round I had a realisation. It was this, since I had retired from work, I wasn’t very good at anything in the sense that everybody I did things with – jazz players, golfers, wine-makers etc – were all better than me. In part, and only in part, I attribute this to trying to do a number of things and none of them to ‘mastery’.
OK, but then the question inevitably follows – do you want to redefine yourself in retirement (in my case at least) by becoming highly skilled in one area when you were not (outside of work – hopefully) pre-retirement? It is a tried and tested path to satisfaction for many retired people at least from what I read it is. Now I’m retired I can’t wait to spend all my time as an engine driver (or whatever), goes this kind of approach. But I don’t think it’s the way forward for me.
So to put it in another way, I think it is better, for me, to remain an amateur, a dabbler or, in a perhaps more desirable description, a Renaissance man or woman, rather than a specialist? Given that Leonardo da Vinci has always been one of my heroes, a man who could paint great pictures and design helicopters it will be obvious where my sympathies lie. But, but, and here’s the catch, it seems there is not much in the way of collateral in being a dabbler no matter how prettily you dress it up. It may be that there is little in the way of a boost to your battered self-esteem in being a bit of this and a bit of that, no matter how well balanced those bits and bobs might seem to be. Spread your time and effort as thinly as I do and it’s no surprise that my skill levels either remain bouncing along the bottom or increase so slowly as to be easily over-looked. If over-looked then no positive impact on self-esteem. Worse, getting the feeling that you are getting nowhere in your chosen areas can be damaging to self-esteem.
But, in summary, so OK, a dabbler might have low self-esteem but the specialist bit has its downside also. As my diary, which has quotes at the bottom of each page, puts it in a rather unusual way – in the words of Hilaire Belloc, ‘be content to remember that those who can make omelettes (hence the image above) can do nothing else.’ Nuff, said. So there we are once again retirement throws up some unforeseen issues that I need to puzzle over. What’s ‘best’ for retirement well-being, specialist or generalist? Is there no end to the complexity of retirement?