Those of you who have been following my journey for a while (or at least read my bio) know that when I left my job almost a year ago I said that I was not quitting – I was retiring. I made the conscious decision to leave behind a way of living, an identity, and belief system of what “work” was supposed to look like.

This decision marked a profound shift in my life. It fundamentally changed my perspective, and therefore rewired the way I make decisions – the big picture ones and the small, every day ones. I haven’t talked a lot about retirement in the last few months because, honestly, I got busy and distracted. I forgot that I was retired. 

A recent pig picture decision pushed me back into my retirement mindset, and caused me to really consider – what does it mean to be retired? 

Retire: The official definition

Retire originates from the French retirer, to pull back or withdraw (re=back, tired=pull or draw). Its first meaning was to “withdraw to a place of safety or seclusion.” In the dictionary, “retire” is accompanied by a seemingly odd melange of definitions:

  1. to withdraw from action or danger : retreat
  2. to withdraw especially for privacy, rest or seclusion <retired to her room>
  3. to move back : recede
  4. to withdraw from one’s position or occupation : conclude one’s working or professional career
  5. to go to bed

I’ll tell you – leaving my job did feel like withdrawing from danger at the time; so many years lived steeped in adrenaline left me exhausted and weary. But what the hell does leaving your job have to do with going to bed and withdrawing?

Curious, I looked up the etymology of “retire” and found this:

Meaning “to withdraw” to some place, especially for the sake of privacy, is recorded from 1530s; sense of “leave an occupation” first attested 1640s (implied in retirement). Meaning “to leave company and go to bed” is from 1660s.

So that’s how this all came together: to retire originally came from the idea that you would withdraw from your working life and go to “bed” – to rest. One pulled back from the working world, and perhaps even society, and into peaceful seclusion.

However, this definition of retirement doesn’t fit our world today. I feel like most of the retired people I know are as – or more – active than I am. Instead of marking the end of your active life, retirement is now a second youth; a chance to do all the things you never got a chance to do because you were too busy working. Implicit in this idea is that you have to wait until your golden years to live the life you’ve always wanted, pursue the hobbies and passions you didn’t have time to during your working years.

This is the paradigm I want to change. I believe you can live that way NOW.

Retirement, redefined

When I left my job, I promised myself that from then on I would only do things that lit me on fire, pursue passions and hobbies (and just happen to get paid for them), and most of all be in control of my own life. After being retired for almost a year, I am redefining retirement:

  1. to chose to live life and make decisions motivated by passion, purpose, and pleasure; not for financial, career, or societal gain
  2. to create a lifestyle based on personal preference; a self-defined life of leisure
  3. to pursue hobbies and passions, to be eternally curious and learning
  4. to define yourself by your lifestyle, not your occupation <“I’m retired” vs. “I’m an accountant”>

Whether you’re in a full time job or retired like me, every moment is a choice – you have the power to determine how you experience and perceive your life. You can be retired while in a full time job, or “working” while you’re retired.

It’s all a matter of perspective, mindset, and choice (tweet it).

What does being retired mean to you? Let’s have a conversation in the comments.