A number of people have asked me in the last few weeks and months when I’m going to retire. While I think that might not be a totally appropriate question, I understand why they ask. I have gray hair (which I have earned), I use a rollator to manage my vertigo, and I’ve been public about the fact I pick and choose my travels because of my vertigo.
What I find surprising is that these people think my brain has an expiration date.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: I’m hitting my stride daily. (Not just in my steps (hehe), but in my thinking, consulting, and choice-making.) I’m getting better every day. No, not in my vertigo, but that’s not the issue. In my professional life, I’m able to link things together, to explain better, to be more effective as a consultant, writer, and speaker.
That’s why I find this question so interesting: when will you retire? In my never humble opinion, people ask this question for many reasons. I suspect the meta-thinking behind this question is how does the person think and feel about age?
Early in my career, I was the only woman in the room, especially when those rooms had managers in them. As a manager, I was most often the youngest person in the room. Now, as I work more often with senior management teams, I might not be the only technical woman in the room. I am, however, often the oldest!
I encountered this old-age thinking a number of years ago when I was just over 50. I was on an international trip, consulting about agile hiring and agile approaches to the project portfolio. My client—a lovely young man in his late 30s—said, “No one over 40 really understands agile.”
I smiled and asked, “How old do you think I am?”
He had that deer in the headlight look. He said, “39?”
We don’t just think about age differently as we achieve more birthdays. We feel differently, too.
Back in my 20s, I thought I would hit the magic age of 40 and be able to say anything to anyone. Well, I started that frankness—including trying not to offend too badly—back in my 20s. I haven’t stopped.
When I turned 50, I felt a bit adrift. I think I had a brief midlife crisis—because it really was my midlife or just past. I realized that I had more years behind me than ahead of me. I became more comfortable with that idea.
I’m not planning on retiring. Certainly, not from life! I continue to choose again: what do I want to offer for my products and services? How do I want to deliver those products and services? How much do I want to travel? How much do I want to consult, coach, speak, write, and how? What fits for me—for my profession, for all of my life?
I continue to think, “forward.” Too often, retirement means, “back.” Backwards-thinking doesn’t work for me. I hope you also think “forward.”
That is the question this week: How do you think and feel about age?
- Is This Problem Deterministic or Non-Deterministic?
- Which Number Career Are You On?