Who You Are
Throughout your life you have been defined by what you are doing at the time — you are a student, a Navy Seal, a shop owner, a trainee, a department manager. You are defined also by nonwork activities or passions. Maybe you are known as a sailor, a sky diver, or a seamstress. In the community are you a coach, troop leader, or food bank volunteer? Your relationships reflect important identities in your life, too. You are probably someone's parent, sibling, godparent, or grandparent.
In the workplace, what happens to your old identity and your relationships with your coworkers when you become promoted to department head? You may love the new pay grade, and the chance to put your stamp on the operation, but are you prepared to be shunned by work friends at lunchtime? Has a bridge been crossed only by you?
There is nothing more thrilling in the world than becoming a grandparent for the first time, but what does that say about you? Do you feel old enough to be a grandparent? Have you just been promoted to a life stage that isn't completely comfortable yet?
If you have derived a great deal of your identity from your position and power in your career, leaving it is no small thing. Part of taking care of business is facing the impact retiring will have on you. Don't dismiss your feelings as nothing. You need to work through this major change in your identity.
Each time you add or delete a role in your life, your identity shifts a notch. It is especially important to prepare for one of these significant shifts as you transition into retirement. Exciting transitions like becoming a grandparent, or sobering ones like becoming the guardian for a deceased relative's child, are a challenge to reacquaint you with yourself. Sometimes you may find you have so many roles to play that you long for a simpler stage in your life when you really only have to worry about your own needs. You cannot go back, but you can let go of your prior roles and embrace the new role you choose as a retiree.