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Building Our Own Journeys

One of the questions I usually get from folks who are anticipating retirement is “what do you do?” I remember being in that place, and fantasizing about the “Sweetness of Doing Nothing.” This is a translation of “La Dolce Fa Neante” in Anita’s favorite movie, “Eat, Pray, Love.” It refers to when Julia Roberts’ character is learning how to chill, in Italy.  Anita and I were always so busy doing “something” that this was a tough concept to take onboard. Our year in Orlando taught me that this is eminently acheivable…especially if fulfillment is no longer a condition we impose on that goal.

It seems that the Expat journey can offer both (relaxation and fulfillment). But we have found we need a plan and a set of projects providing the means to those ends. Certainly, learning the ropes of living abroad (to include building a network of friends and learning the language), is a basic part of that. But we want more. And that is how Anita and I fashion a unique approach to the expat journey. We each have a set of three projects that facilitate finding fulfillment.  For Anita, it is Photography, Quilting, and building tools for European Travel. These are her three passions.  My three projects are Supporting the Family Enterprises, Playing my Instruments, and Writing. I have invested most heavily in the first project, and have found a breakthrough that exponentially helps me with my other two projects.

Before explaining what I mean by the spillover from my first to my second and third projects, I need to address a super-ordinate issue that can be overlooked in describing the expat journey. No matter what retirement path we choose, we need to address how we deal with the burn-out many experience as our careers wind down. I recall, long before retirement, that some folks, before me, died after retiring. There are figures that would support some degree of concern. Transition is stressful. One of the factors is the aftermath of burn-out. To make matters worse, many of us have not just one career, but several. In the Washington, D.C. area it was not uncommon to have several part-time jobs, just to make ends meet…and perhaps a volunteer career to help reach the elusive goal of finding the fulfillment that can be missing from our paid jobs. Many of us just leave. What is bypassed is dealing with the burn-out that happens as these pursuits wind down and/or flame out,

I had my issues managed, but never resolved, as I left my one full-time and three part-time careers (to include a volunteer role).  I had no idea just how much I had numbed myself, to get through it. One of my professional roles involved mentoring. And the most successful kind is when the mentoring involves a journey that transforms all involved. So it was in my mentoring, here, to “support the family enterprise” that I found the path to thawing my heart. I think this is helping me deal with roadblocks that have been affecting my playing for church service and writing. We will see just how much. I am playing for a service celebrating St Francis’ life, next week. And I am taking another “round turn” (as we would say in the Navy) on my writing efforts.


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