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退休真的需要勇气吗?

Heidi Sinclair 2012年10月10日

我们与工作之间到底存在怎样的联系,导致退休变得如此需要勇气?也许,退休需要的并不是勇气,而是未雨绸缪,早作规划。

    几周前,我在从事了30年传播业务后于54岁宣布退休。对于我这项出人意料的决定,40岁朝上的朋友、同事和家人铺天盖地的回应是“我嫉妒!”。超过50岁的往往还会加上一句“我随后就来”。

    40岁以下的反应是不信。一位朋友说,“我不信。这不可能。”退休后重返职场或退休未果者也这么看,他们警告说:“你会回来的。”

    我不打算去佛罗里达打高尔夫。我会继续积极写作,担任企业董事,承担有意义的非营利机构职责。但我不会回来。这世上有太多其他有意思的事了,而且正如我们所见,生命宝贵,但人生无常。人生需要充分体验。

    我宣布退休后,形形色色的反应中最让我意外的是:“这是一件多么有勇气的事啊!”至少有50个人告诉我说,我做的事很有勇气、令人钦佩、大胆而且鼓舞他人。真是这样吗?

    我这辈子确实做过几件勇敢的事。我生了3个孩子,其中一个近10磅重,也没用止痛药。23岁时我用父母担保的一笔5万美元贷款创办了一家公司。我害怕极了,担心会把他们宝贵的钱财付之一炬,但18个月后我把钱还给了他们。我把前夫(一名瘾君子)锁在屋外,强迫他去戒毒所。这需要超乎想象的勇气。13岁的时后,我遭人绑架,但我说服绑匪不要强奸我,还开车把我送回了家。处在上述这些时刻中的任何一个,我都必须战胜真真切切、实实在在的恐惧,努力向内心寻找勇气,应对这些状况。

    退休对我而言感觉更像是放纵自己。明天,我可以睡到自然醒,用我喜欢的方式度过一整天。但是,对于这么多人,这需要莫大的勇气。我们与工作之间到底存在怎样的联系,让停止工作变得如此需要勇气?我们的恐惧是什么?为什么工作那么重要?

    我从朋友和同事处听到了下面这些担心:

    “就算我有足够的储蓄,不再需要一份薪水。我也无法想象再也不拿薪水的情形。我喜欢拿到一份实实在在的酬劳。”

    “我不知道(退休后)能做些什么。”

    “如果发生一些状况,却没有足够的经济保障,怎么办?2008年市场崩溃后,就更没安全感了。”

    “如果不做成功的企业领导者,我什么都不是。”

    “你不担心自己变得无足轻重吗?”

    “我那么努力工作才取得今天的地位,(退休)感觉就像是抛弃所有这一切。”

    这些我都理解。工作,如果我们幸运的话(我一直都幸运),就不仅仅是一份工作或一份薪水。它是我们人生的重要组成部分。不只是职位,还有我们多年来积累的所有声望、人际网络、个人履历以及宝贵经验。还有在这个过程中我们为工作做出的个人牺牲,那些错过的孩子生日、球赛和音乐会,我们大多数的朋友实际上都是工作上的朋友。

    A few weeks ago, at the age of 54, I announced my retirement after 30 years in the communications business. The overwhelming response to my surprising news from friends, associates and family who are at least 40-years old is "I am envious." From the over 50 crowd, there is often the added comment of "and I am right behind you."

    For the under 40s, the response is disbelief. One friend said, "I just don't believe you. It won't happen." This goes as well for the retread or failed retirees. "You will be back!" they warn.

    I am not headed to Florida to play golf. I will stay active writing, serving as a director on corporate boards and a maintaining a meaningful non-profit role. But I will not be back. There is too much else that beckons and, as I have discovered, life is both precious and precarious. It needs to be lived fully.

    The response to my retirement announcement that surprised me most is this: "What a brave, thing to do." At least 50 people told me that what I was doing was courageous, admirable, bold, and inspirational. Really?

    Over the course of my life, I have had a few acts of real bravery. I gave birth to all three of my children, including the nearly ten-pounder without drugs. I started a company at 23, with a $50,000 bank loan guaranteed by my parents. I was terrified that I would lose their precious money, but I paid them back in 18 months. I locked my ex-husband, an addict, out the house and forced him into rehab. That took more courage that you can imagine. When I was 13, I convinced a man who kidnapped me not to rape me and instead to drive me back home. In each of these moments I had to overcome real, tangible fear and do something that required me to dig deep and find the courage to deal with the situation.

    Retiring to me feels indulgent. Tomorrow I will get up whenever I want and I will spend the day as I please. Yet, to so very many, this is courageous. What is it about our connection to work that makes the very act of stopping so scary? What are our fears and why is work so important?

    I heard a few of these fears from my friends and associates:

    "I can't imagine not getting a paycheck ever again. Even though I have saved enough that I don't need one. I like getting the tangible reward."

    "I don't know what I would do with myself."

    "What if something happens and you don't have enough financial security? Ever since the market crashed in 2008, it doesn't feel safe."

    "Who am I, if I am not this very successful business leader?"

    "Are you not afraid of becoming irrelevant?"

    "I have worked so hard to get where I am, it feels like I would be throwing that all away."

    I do get it. Work, if we are lucky (and I have been), is more than a job or a paycheck. It is a big part of who we are. Not just the title, but all that we have built over time: our reputation, our network, our curriculum vitae of roles and responsibilities and the resulting legacy. It is also the many life tradeoffs that we made along the way, all the missed children's birthdays and soccer games and concerts or the fact that most of our friends are actually work friends.

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