The last 48 hours have felt like a long string of discontinuity. We have awakened in Canada, Germany and France over that period and used pretty much every motorized form of transport available. Last night we arrived in the southern French village of Olonzac that will be home for the next three weeks. The annual “Fete” was in full swing, blocking streets and forcing us to ad lib our way to our accommodation.
We awoke this morning (and a couple of times over the night) adjusting to a new time zone eight hours from that which we are used to and in an apartment with no food (our first order of priority today is to sort that out!) and in an environment where even speaking to someone is a challenge.
All that might sound like whining, but I don’t intend it that way. The intent is just to highlight how life can be sometimes – where nothing seems as it was just a short while ago and even the simplest things in life are no longer automatic.
This is our first opportunity to travel after passing through the gates of retirement. My wife Kendra went “cold turkey”, ending 35 years of working at a single company in a single day. Where, in the past, our morning discussions centered around the theme of “I don’t want to go to work”, her daily beginnings are now more along the lines of “I’m so happy!” For me, retirement has been designed to be a more gradual transition where I explore a purpose-driven career before I totally step away from a financially-driven one.
The feelings of discontinuity that were brought about by our travel to get here provoked thoughts of how different approaches to retirement can be continuous or discontinuous as well. It is certainly true of the two of us and our very different plans for retirement.
Kendra’s approach has been abrupt, and while it has led to the new refrain of “I’m so happy!”, it has also caused her to reflect on what the next 30+ years are going to be like, and how she will be fulfilled by them. Stopping work has been a discontinuity that she didn’t really prepare for, but is now starting to focus on. She is joyful in her retirement, but beginning to wonder about fulfillment.
My approach was designed with continuity in mind, but I’m not yet convinced that this is necessarily better. As I began to contemplate retirement, I wondered what my purpose would be when I stopped working. In essence, I was afraid of how I would know myself when I stopped adding value through my lifelong career. This search brought me to coaching, and I truly sense that as something that will fulfill my purpose in the future. However, when one plans to transition slowly from the familiar to the new, the comfort of the familiar sometimes creates an inertia that is stronger than the pull of the promising new future. So at times I find myself leaning back towards my past instead of confidently embracing my new purpose.
Just like when I rented a car yesterday from a French person. I speak some (perhaps adequate) French, but her ease in English, made it easy for me to stay in the familiar language of home rather than embracing my commitment to immerse myself in France.
In many ways, this trip to France feels like a laboratory for my future work, where I will work as a coach supporting people through transitions such as retirement. I’m looking forward to observing both of us engage in the process! There will be some interesting things to learn along the way, such as:
- For Kendra, this will be the first time that a trip isn’t a vacation. It’s just travel. When she returns home there is no work to return to and it will be interesting for us to discuss how that lands with her.
- For me, I have the intention of truly “blurring the lines” of work and living on this trip. That is my overall intent with retirement and in my first few months of being in my “first retirement” I haven’t yet been able to find it. I’m hoping to start to learn what it feels like to always be on vacation while always working. By being able to let go of my current definition of working, I can also let go of my current definition of career and its pull on me.
- This trip, we decided to rent this apartment for three weeks running, so that we would begin to experience our travel more as a “temporary relocation” than a vacation. We want to know if we can see travel as a part of our continuous living experience rather than feel it as a disruption to life’s routine. Can we feel like we are a denizen of the world rather than a resident in our home?
I’m sure my next few posts will have more to say on this topic, and I look forward to what I might learn. Stay tuned!! How about you? How do you experience transition? Is it continuous? Discontinuous? A bit of both?