I discovered this quote about ten years ago. It resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now, but in a whole new way. (By the way, this quote came from a commencement address that Brian Dyson gave at Georgia Tech in 1996. Read his entire address here – it’s full of wisdom.)
In my last post, I spoke of men and women (but especially men) who are miserable in retirement because they derived all of their sense of self-worth from their work accomplishments. After they left work, they lost their validation and reason to exist. They devoted so much of their time, energy and focus on their work that they abandoned all of their hobbies and interests, and their non-work talents atrophied and died.
The same is true of parents who devote themselves so much to their children that they lose themselves. Then they suffer from “empty nest syndrome” and purposeless retirements. They may claim that they have no time for themselves, and they may feel selfish and neglectful if they allow any time for their own interests and not their children’s. A recent article on Gay Star News refutes that belief by claiming that “gay or straight, if you want happy kids, be a happy parent.”
This makes perfect sense. Kids look to their parents as role models in everything they do. If their parents are living full, happy lives, their home environment will be happy, and the kids will learn how to live full, happy lives. If kids see their parents as workaholics or empty, unfulfilled shells of people (or both), the kids will be less likely to grow up to be happy and well-adjusted.
What does this have to do with retirement? If you choose to live a balanced life during your working years, you will allow time for and nourish your talents and interests. You’ll have rewarding things to do during retirement. You will already be in the habit of balance and happiness. You will have learned to define yourself and value yourself in ways beyond your work accomplishments. You will be living for your family, health, friends and self more than for your work.