Many people in the life phase after full-time work use the word “freedom” to describe their experience. When we dig deeper, we find that there are different explanations of what freedom really means to each of us. I am curious about what is true for you.
Freedom may not be how you would describe your life after full-time work and other life responsibilities. For some, responsibilities continue, such as caring for a family member or even raising grandchildren. For others, it may feel as though there is no longer a purpose.
You may have a full life just taking care of your own wellness. For about 30% of our generation of women, loneliness defines this phase. What are some of the words you use to describe what this phase of life is like for you?
If you do identify with the notion that this phase is a time of freedom, stop and reflect on what you mean by that. Is it “freedom from” earlier responsibilities, or is it “freedom to” create life? Survey evidence indicates that our generation is split 50-50 between these two definitions of freedom.
One group defines freedom as no longer having the work and family responsibilities of earlier life phases. For my husband, it would be freedom from getting up at 5:30 to make it to his first meeting. It may be freedom from a long commute, or from work travel, or from a bad boss or co-worker. It may be freedom from having little personal time.
It appears that there is gratification in taking note of what negatives are no longer present. So, it is possible to relax in life enjoying the absence of what was not pleasurable.
The other group defines freedom as being free to accomplish/create/be. When I interviewed a few women about what freedom means to them, they used the word “choice” in their explanations. It is freedom to choose the life you want to live; it might be for the next five years or for just today. The point is that they get to decide. On the surface, this sounds easy. Right? In fact, it often is challenging.
In the beginning, taking your power and choosing what you want can feel foreign. We women often are not very practiced at doing this. Two women I spoke with talked about how they are learning how to choose by getting to know themselves, that they deserve to live the life they want, and take their power to choose.
Sometimes this learning requires setting new boundaries in relationships; sometime personal time and space is needed. Certainly, you must be in touch with your own inner wisdom. You might find this short meditation helpful to begin to know your inner voice.
Of course, there is truth in both perspectives about freedom. Yet, when you consider the qualities of the life you desire, there is value in emphasizing the perspective that serves what you want. I have a personal bias that I will explain. I’d love to hear if you experience it differently or likewise.
My sense is that the “freedom from” perspective may serve the early months of post full-time work. In this early phase of transition, you are letting go and perhaps allowing yourself to relax at last. You get to feel what it is like to not be driven by a work schedule.
Do you think there is some incentive to stay in this phase and not move into the “freedom to” perspective? Or perhaps, you moved immediately into the ‘freedom to’ perspective?
Personally, I stayed in the ‘freedom from” stage less than six months. My mind went from relishing that I didn’t have work obligations to considering what it is I did want as my life. Exploring this question turned out to be quite a journey; I don’t think there is one destination. It is the freedom to explore, adapt and grow as we go. Age 70 probably will look different from age 85 – adapt!
The ‘freedom to’ perspective is forward-looking and expansive. Even if I face physical hurdles someday, I truly believe this perspective will help me focus on what is possible. That is good for health, well-being, and happiness.
Have you left full-time work? Do you feel you are free from work or free to do life your way? What are your thoughts and personal experiences?