I haven’t had much time to write my blog posts, as I’ve been busy finding myself. As you may recall, I recently experienced the first “adjustment anxiety” of my fledgling retirement, triggered by the prospect of extended time at home with (horror!) nothing specific to do. That in turn sparked a flurry of activity designed to thrust myself into and through the next phase of retirement (the “re-orientation” phase) as quickly as humanly possible. Being the goal-oriented girl I am, my objective is to get to the “completely comfortable and enjoying retirement to the hilt” stage in record time. I am completely aware this may not be sound strategy and I may need to be patient and contemplative, but that’s not my strength and I can’t really help myself.
So, this week found me in a state of manic self-discovery. I signed up for eight adult education classes over the next two months. The first, last Saturday, was a seminar entitled “What Were You Born to Do?” The second, a five-week series of golf lessons, began on Wednesday. The third, a cooking class called “Winter Soups and Stews” was on Wednesday night. I also scheduled exercise classes every morning at the local YMCA (including two yoga classes, which is new for me). Last Saturday, before my adult education class, I met a friend at a Paint Your Own Pottery studio and painted a plate. On Monday, I drove an hour to visit my college roommate who was in town visiting her mother. On Tuesday, my husband and I had a dinner and theatre date with another couple. On Friday night, I have my monthly Book Club meeting. On Saturday morning, I’m driving to San Diego for the weekend to visit high school friends. I fully recognize the overexcited, Energizer Bunny quality of my life right now, and I don’t think I can or should keep this up forever, but it has been invigorating!
Getting back to the seminar on Saturday (“What Were You Born to Do?”), I was intrigued by the description in the class catalogue, but wary it might be crackpot. “You were born to make a unique contribution to humanity. Progressing toward this purpose brings joy and abundance. Straying from it causes stress and emptiness. To accomplish this mission one of the 33 Natural Talents is wired into your DNA. It’s so subtle, you rarely notice it; yet so powerful, it’s the source of your highest potential.” I was hoping my Natural Talent was something lucrative.
The class proved to be surprisingly effective and energizing. The instructor, who reminded me of an older version of the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, began by describing his own life story and how his recurring dissatisfaction with the jobs he’d held had spurred intense self-analysis. This led to recognition of his own “Natural Talent” and its under-utilization. He eventually quit his job and began giving seminars, helping others to recognize their Natural Talents. He has fine-tuned the process and the list of Natural Talents through extensive research and working with “thousands” of people at the seminars he’s conducted over the past twenty years.
During the course of the 3-1/2 hour class, through listening to descriptions of the Natural Talents, completing questionnaires and quizzes, class discussions, and reflection on my life and activities, recurring behaviors, likes and dislikes, I concluded that my Natural Talent fell under the general category of Creative Arts, and more specifically, Writing. During one class exercise, I recalled that some of my favorite activities as a young girl were reading, especially biographies of famous women; writing stories, letters and diaries; and making up elaborate stories regarding my dolls and other toys. I also remember winning writing contests, especially short story fiction. In college, unlike almost every other classmate I knew, I loved writing research papers. In law school, I made Law Review based on the strength of my “Comment” (a research paper on a topic never before published). In fact, I was named Law Review Comments Editor, and the next year edited others’ Comments. As I reflected on my favorite part of my business career, it was the writing – letters, presentations, reports – that I enjoyed the most, and it was always important to me to “tell the story” in my writing. And most recently, writing my blog since retiring has been a source of great satisfaction for me.
It all seemed to resonate, and gave me a sense of both calm and excitement. Calm because it provides a direction to focus on. The endless possibilities for the rest of my life can seem overwhelming, and having a narrowed focus feels more manageable. It is also exciting to think of doing something I truly enjoy and that will utilize my God-given talents. Of course, I immediately flew into What Exactly Can I Do With This and How Can I Make Money Writing mode. The instructor gently reminded us that making a change into a new field or activity is a process and will not happen overnight. He advised us to always take steps in the direction of our Natural Talent, but to also let it simmer internally and let our subconscious work on the exact fit for ourselves. Another indicator I’m on the right track was the list of other classes I’d registered for, before the seminar on Natural Talents. It was interesting to see I’d chosen “Writing Your First Book,” “Publishing Your First Book,” “How to Give Seminars and Workshops,” and “Blogging for Fun and Profit.”
The beautiful thing about retirement is that I no longer need to consider earnings potential when picking an activity. I would love to parlay writing into an enjoyable AND lucrative second career but there is no rush or imperative. In the meantime, I can dream about the possibilities. Novel? Humor? Travelogue? Researched nonfiction pieces on politics, or history? A biography? An expanded blog? All I can say is, now I’m down with the re-orientation phase!