Reflections on a Career

By Sue Griggs, TCP Associate

Ten years ago, my husband asked me when I was going to retire. He became quite frustrated and a bit annoyed when I said that I had absolutely no idea when I was going to ‘retire’. I also mentioned that I hated the whole concept of retirement and that I couldn’t possibly plan that far ahead.

To put this question into a context, it is perhaps worth mentioning that I was slightly ahead of the Boomer population so I always had the pick of any particular job I wanted. I was able to satisfy my eclectic interests as I moved from country to country, job to job, full-time to part-time, in-house employee, freelance consultant, corporate to non-profit and back again. I did well at whatever I tackled and loved everything I did. I was lucky – I worked where I wanted to for most of my life. Over the years, I have achieved several degrees along with a couple of diplomas. I have been an early childhood educator, a researcher, a course developer, an organizational effectiveness consultant, a psychotherapist and an executive coach. Of course, the basic theme throughout my work career has been my passion to create an environment for people from ages two to eighty so that they could learn and grow.

Back to the question, “When am I going to retire?”, I preserved family harmony by describing a pie – a pie with eight wedge shaped pieces of different sizes. At that time, I described the wedges as: work, family, my own learning, recreation, travel, volunteer activities, cultural activities and the unknown. I drew a visual picture of my pie and talked about how each ‘wedge’ would change over the years. Ten years later, the design of my life has indeed changed; however the pie analogy still fits. Most of the same wedges are in place, although they may not look the same, and they seem to be more interwoven than ever.

The family wedge has changed dramatically as we have been involved in caring for elderly parents until their deaths, and more recently making a commitment to be involved in the lives of our granddaughters. Of course dealing with health issues and complications of aging bodies has taken a bigger piece of the family pie than previously. The work wedge has also changed although it hasn’t lessened that dramatically. The financial compensation has diminished considerably as we do more and more pro bono work and I use my skills in a number of non-profit ventures around the world. For the most part, work and volunteering have become one and take up a very important part of the pie. Travel has increased somewhat, although more and more of the travel is tied up with non-profit work, volunteering and family as well. Learning and being involved in new things hasn’t stopped. Designing and building a house and attempting to learn a new language have taken considerable time and energy. The wedge involved with the unknown is flexible – holding a space for possibilities and for the unexpected, both of which seem to pop up.  Living a life with meaning and purpose is not always easy; however it is the goal that provides stability to a career – a career, a life and a path which is continuing.

Am I retired? Are we retired? In the traditional sense, mostly. However, when considering the bigger picture, I have not retired from life. Is my ‘career’ over? I feel that as usual, a new chapter and a new career has already started and the journey will continue.