You’ve announced that you’re ending your long career. Coworkers deluge you with “What are you going to be doing?” When you see friends, they’ll all want to know “What are you going to be doing?” When you go to gatherings, cocktail parties, reunions, just about anyplace — people want to know your plans. And before you answer, they’ll have it in their head that you’re going to travel, play golf/tennis, and do some volunteerism.
It’s the model that people are familiar with and expect you to fit nicely into it. Well, if you’re a really, really driven type, they’ll want to know if you’re going to start another career, if you’re going to do some consulting, if you’re going to join some Boards.
If you choose to relax and decompress (and, yes, travel some) for a while, that won’t surprise anyone and will totally meet their expectations of life after a long career.
If by and by you decide to ease gradually into a Tapas Life, that will break the mold that’s in most people’s head. Huh? You’re not just traveling and playing golf? You haven’t started a new job? This can be an uncomfortable time, in that you are stepping away from the age-old model of how life is expected to be lived. Everywhere you go, whoever you see will want to know what’s new, what you’re up to now. If after 3-6 months you don’t have much of an answer, people will either say “Oh” (as in, gee, he’s lost) or will prod you for some sort of plan.
Moreover, you yourself may find you are itching to get started on something. After all, you’ve spent 17+ years of your life being educated and then 30-40+ years in your long career(s). After all this doing, it’s really alien to not be doing. It’s awkward. It’s not what your or others are looking for in the you they know. It’s quite challenging to simply stay with regrouping, introspecting, considering what you actually want from the coming decades.
The most vibrant you may be submerged under the work persona you’ve inhabited for decades, and it is likely to take time and intent to find that truest you. To be sure, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose work was their heart’s desire, what used their fullest capabilities to meaningful effect. In which case, you may not have ended your long career at all (since that sort of idyllic life can be hard to replace)! Sad to say, though, most of us weren’t living ourselves all that fully during our long career — or not during the work portion, or at least not during the last 10+ years of the work portion. I know I personally was bored during the last 7+ years of my long career — and mine was only 28 years, less than most.
Yes, it takes time and intent to rediscover ourselves, while everyone incessantly pokes at us “What are you up to?” And after rediscovering ourselves, it’s a gradual process to assemble a Tapas Life, starting in on something we love, and then adding Tapas over a period of months and years (mine took about 4.5 years to assemble), keeping some Tapas, discarding some, failing miserably at some.
It takes courage and perseverance to head down the new path of a Tapas Life, enduring other’s expectations that will remain unmet. The closer the relationship, the harder it is to, in essence, make your friends and family feel that something’s wrong — simply because you’re not fitting into the model that’s in their head. At the same time, look for those who believe in you and are willing to support you in a flexible way, willing to understand that it’s OK to walk a less common path. They will be an excellent energy source and sounding boards and perhaps partners on your journey to the Tapas Life.
If you like to buck trends, are an iconoclast, stand up to the powers that be, or are otherwise a nonconformist, you’ll have an easier time of it, for sure. If all that sort of behavior is foreign to you, and the Tapas Life appeals to you greatly, you’ll need some courage.
It’s worth swimming against the tide to enjoy a rich, fulfilling, meaningful Tapas Life during your second adult life!
Please introduce this blog to others you know a who are late in their long career or who have left their long career in the last few years. You’re likely to be helping them greatly. Thanks!