Did you ever watch a young child play with a book? I have had the pleasure of watching a one year old display tremendous curiosity as he looks through his favorite books over and over again. Watching a young child learn teaches us many lessons. Very young children often have their favorite toys and books that they seem to be able to play with over and over again and experience the same joy as if they saw it for the first time.
While I don’t pretend to understand the developmental aspects of a one year old – I know that we all likely progressed the same way. I do recall the home videos of me hanging with my favorite toy back in the 50’s! What struck me when I was watching this child is the excitement he gets from “turning the page”. I can’t help but think that he is either bored with what is on the current page, really is looking to see what is on the next page, or just likes to flip pages. Perhaps a combination, but when he turns the page he gets all excited again, then turns the next page and the beat goes on….
So what does this have to do with retirement? If we are curious and want to continue to learn and experience things – then we have to “turn the page”. In many cases this means letting go of one thing to move onto the next. It is hard to fully appreciate the “next page”, until you move from where you are today.
Like the curious one year old – wouldn’t it be great if we can experience the same awe and excitement all over again. This may mean thinking differently about our past in that we no longer “hold onto it” but look more forward to the future in order to take on new roles or experience things we didn’t have the time for previously.
A former colleague of mine, who retired from her main career 5 years ago, told me how her day is filled with nurturing curiosities that she didn’t have time to focus on when she was working. The Gift of Retirement allowed her to be that young child again in many ways – to explore and to have some fun. After thinking about the things most important to her, she is exploring new areas of learning by taking college courses and volunteering with young people to teach them basic math. She allowed herself the flexibility to explore new experiences by thinking “forward” and creating a focus on things she wants to try in order to satisfy her “inner child”. This took a different mindset, and some time to refine, as letting go of the past meant not holding onto beliefs, practices or activities that keep us from moving forward – rather having a new and strong belief that the future is full of great and different opportunities.
Similar to the young child with the book, she looks at life as a series of chapters and retirement as the next exciting chapter. She has turned the page and every time she attends a new class or helps another young person with math – another page gets turned.
The beat goes on – just like the one year old. Retirement can be a great gift of learning and exploring. We just have to “re-learn” how to “turn the page” to experience the awe of what’s next for our lives.