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OPINION

And Now What?

And Now What?

Picture this. You spend four decades of your life working non-stop, breaking only for four weeks or so each year. You keep at it, religiously, day in, day out. Then, one day, the (professional) train pulls into a station and you notice that it’s the end of the line – the terminus. No more 9-5, Monday through Friday for you; it is now 0-24, every single day. And all these hours that have just been freed up are screaming to be filled.

Most people don’t realize that their working life has an expiry date. Maybe it’s the fast pace at which they work all those years or the frantic nature of their jobs. It can even be the dependence on the monthly cheque – a form of (financial) addiction that rages for forty odd years, then comes to a screeching halt. Pension is phased in, salary is phased out but the two are unequal, so the nest egg comes calling (if there is one in place). Preparation is the key to success. Alexander Graham Bell said that.

The importance of having hobbies during your working years is indisputable. A recent article by Harvard Business School (HBS), titled ‘Welcome to Retirement. Who Am I Now?’, makes the case that retirees struggle with reinventing themselves shortly after they are taken off the job market. They tend to go on a self-discovery journey with a view to identifying who they really are and what they truly want to do with their remaining (golden) years. That’s where the hobbies come into play and their importance is put in the spotlight. The HBS article uses the term “identity bridges” to explain the need of people to maintain continuity between their pre- and post-retirement selves. They attend to this need by putting in place certain strategies that help them carry over their working self into their retired self, making the two somehow compatible and the transition somewhat seamless. Most of the time, these strategies renew the retiree’s sense of purpose and, while they do not issue him/her an altogether new identity, they bridge the past and the future in a way that is both fulfilling and rewarding to the newly-retired.

Irrespective of where you are in your career path, and whether retirement is closing in or is far away on the horizon, here are seven strategies for making the most of those golden years:

1. Revisit your bucket list Skydiving. Swimming with sharks. Travelling around the world in eighty days. Everything that you ever wanted to do but couldn’t get a start at it, due to lack of time and excess of workload, is now within your reach. You could embark on a journey of crossing as many items as possible off your current bucket list, also adding new ones as you go along.
 
2. Get back into the classroom You may already be well-qualified, academically speaking, but getting another degree on a subject that you love can work wonders, both for your self-esteem and for your grey matter. When we learn a new activity, our brain neurons fire like there’s a war going on in our head! New synapses are formed and this pays dividends to every fibre of our being, not just in the upper part. Becoming a Doctor in your sixties is now a possibility, although it’s probably advisable to do so by getting a PhD, rather than an MD!
 
3. Keep working…but be your own boss! Remember your hobbies? Good. You can now turn them into a full- or part-time business! Loved photography when you were working but didn’t really have the time to delve into it professionally? Open a camera shop and give free tips to your customers. You used to be a movie buff? Put pen to paper and write your own screenplay. Take your most-loved hobby to the next level and you’ll be rewarded, both monetarily and emotionally. 
 
4. Write a novel: I bet you must have read a good deal of books, both fiction and non-fiction, by now. Have you ever thought, though, of penning your own book? It doesn’t have to be your memoirs or an encyclopedic book about the universe (the late and great Stephen Hawking did that already). You can develop an idea for a crime mystery. Or you can put together a handbook with practical business advice. You could even gather your thirty favourite movies and review them. Whatever makes your heart tick and your pen move. Who knows? You may be the next Stephen King or JK Rowling waiting to come out of retirement (pun intended)!
 
5. Learn a new language: So, you’ve always liked the melodic sound of the Italian language. Or, perhaps, you would like to rewatch La Casa de Papel without the subtitles on. When you retire, you’ll have all the time (and grey matter) in the world to delve into learning new languages and putting them into use. Combine that with travelling to a destination where the newly-learned language is spoken and you’ll be killing two birds with one stone in terms of crossing items off your bucket list!
 
6. Master a musical instrument: I get it. You are a rocker. You have seen Aerosmith in concert. You have all the records ever made by the Beatles. You even had long hair like Slash from Guns N’ Roses once upon a time. Have you ever held a guitar, though, let alone play it? My brother is a guitarist and I can tell you from personal experience that there is nothing more immersive than playing your favorite song on a Gibson Les Paul. Pick one, then, enroll for some music lessons, and sometime down the road you’ll be jamming with your fellow, like-minded retirees!
 
7. Pump that iron: You don’t have to become Schwarzenegger in his glory days to benefit from lifting weights. You just pick up where you left off last time you were in the gym and work your way from there, one rep at a time. Returning to form in your sixties (or improving your form, if you never left the gym floor), apart from upgrading your health, will provide a tremendous boost to your self-esteem. It will also give you the opportunity to make new friendships over dumbbells and barbells. Sweat it out, and let the good times roll!
 
The end of the job journey does not necessarily mark the end of the life of a dedicated professional. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be lost nor destroyed; it can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. A person who used to be highly energetic in his previous (work) life can channel all this energy into the new life he is now called to live. When there’s a will, there’s a way, they say, and those who have a true will to live their golden years to the utmost are guaranteed to find a way.
 

Info: Spyros Yiassemides BA MSc ACA is a Partner in Yiassemides & Co, a professional storyteller, and a natural-born cinephile. His PhD in Film Studies is just around the corner.

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