I really enjoyed reading this post over at Brave New Life which points out an interesting fact about retiring early: you have to actually pick your new identity after you get there. While most people obsess about the money in early retirement and then think about how to fill all your new free time there is a third, but seldom discussed, issue which is your identity.
In plain terms most people identity is tied to their job. When you meet someone new at a party they tend to ask: so what do you do? When your working the answer is usually your job. I’m a engineer, lawyer, accountant, business owner, nurse, manager, supervisor….you get the idea. When that is gone suddenly you have to redefine yourself by other things in your life and in some cases the lose of status or comfort with your old identity can be painful.
I guess I’m weird in the fact I don’t entirely define myself by my day job and I haven’t for years. My answer to the question of ‘what do you do’ tends to change on the crowd I’m in or I have started to use my new answer “I collect jobs.” I think I enjoy saying that answer because it always gets people to pause and ask “What?”. In a nut shell it becomes an excellent ice breaker to explain I work on several different things that generate money. Which one is my identity is in fact all of the above: I’m an engineer, trustee, blogger, writer, author, and publisher.
In some regards everyone knows this, people are rarely one or two dimensional. Like a good character in a book we are complex, conflicted and more than we initially appear. So throw off the chains of defining yourself by a single part of your life, like a job, and move onto being really you. While it won’t be easy to explain that in one sentence if you are already defining yourself by more than your job it makes your transition into retirement a lot easier.
So how do you define yourself?