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!

Journey to Retirement: Arriving at the Tapas Life Launchpad

Since around 30, I’ve always believed in pursuing what one wants in life, rather than waiting for it to show up.  After business school, this took me to Dallas in 1980, where the weather is warm (a want) and it seemed the economy would be growing.  It turned out that I had joined a weak company, a poor choice.  So I moved out to Silicon Valley in 1984, which was a much better choice, and enjoyed 18 years there in the microchip industry.

When I got married in 1985, my wife and I discussed and agreed on some life goals.  These include one that I’ll share with you now (and another I’ll share in a future post).

This particular life goal was that we both wanted to be breadwinners and we both wanted to be caregivers to the children we hoped we would have together.  We decided to live these roles serially.  Carole quit her job at a big tech firm as sales/marketing manager for a large region of the U.S.  We had kids and she stayed home with them, giving them what they needed.  When the kids were 13 and 15, we swapped roles:  I quit my job as Marketing VP at a big company and became an at-home dad;  Carole (who had gone back to school along the way and earned a PhD in Organization Behavior) became partner in an organization development consultancy.

It was informative how people reacted to this swap.  Carole’s friends wanted to know if I’d had a nervous breakdown.  People at the office wanted to know if I had cancer.  Fortunately, neither was the case.  We were merely executing the plan we’d set in place 17 years earlier.  But it was a window into how set people can be in their thinking.  Nothing could’ve been farther from people’s experience than a successful exec leaving the work world while earning well and with a bright worklife ahead.  That’s because there’s a sort of “normal” path to life, and that’s what people are used to and expect to see.

My agreement to swap roles with Carole was another instance of pursuing the life one wants, rather than waiting for it to show up.

Carole thrived back in the workplace, and I loved being a housedad.  The next five years brought a lot of life, in all of its forms.  And then our youngest went off to college.  I had achieved all the life goals I’d set for myself back in 1983 and now had no clue what to do next.  What on earth would I do next??

If you are approaching the end of a long career;  or if you have retired, you may have the same question:  What on earth will I do next??