Retirement: The Falling Nightmare

Is that all there is, ...

Is that all there is, … (Photo credit: rahid1)

At age 30 or so, we recognize the life season we live in. We are no longer teens, as a glance at the pile of bills on kitchen table will testify. We look around and mumble to ourselves in the lyrics of a once popular song, “is that all there is?”

After having not walked into an office as an employee in over a year, the same song comes to mind. A short pace into retirement, after finding out that eternal leisure is not all it is cracked up to be, again Peggy Lee croons, “Is that all there is?” Just as we did when we entered work life, at the end of it we ask,

“What now?”

My understanding is that human beings are born with only two fears: loud sounds and falling. In a graduate school early learning course, I saw films of an experiment with crawling babies wherein every one of the infants stopped moving at the place they perceived was the edge of the surface.

In the beginning, retirement might evoke memories of the falling nightmare. The last day of employment is the dreaded “end of the table”. In that universal nightmare, there is a feeling of helplessness, powerlessness, and loss of control. There are no boundaries: the sky is not above and the earth is not beneath. Then, startled out of sleep, the familiar surroundings of the bedroom or the TV room is reassurance that it was only a bad dream and we change pajamas with gratitude.

However, the more times we meet the sun, the fainter that helpless/powerless feeling becomes. Finally, there will come a day that it no longer makes sense to base our identity upon the old relationship with The Company as it fades into a one-line parenthetical. We do the same thing on our resumes. The situation is now dominated by a new identity: The Free Man/Woman; The Independent Agent.

What now?



2 thoughts on “Retirement: The Falling Nightmare

  1. Retirement is a hard thing for many people. We lose our sense of identity. We are so accustomed to being in the work world that we feel like we are “falling” into a new world. 🙂


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