Monday, November 27, 2006

40th Year High School Reunion

A couple of months ago, I served as the chair of my high school's 40th year reunion. It was a great occasion, following many earlier reunions, and all of us enjoyed seeing each other again. In the planning of this reunion, I spoke with many of my classmates about what I was beginning to experience as a recent retiree.

After decades of work in nonprofits and government providing what is often referred to being in "health and human services", my wife and I are both now retired. We found the means to obtain complete retirement packages, and now live in a remodeled dream house, in a lifestyle well within our means. I continue to serve on a couple of nonprofit boards of directors, and contribute a significant portion of our income to social change and charitable organizations.

What I did for a living has always been a great part of how I defined the "goodness" in myself. I have always chosen my jobs and projects because I could see that they directly improved other people's lives. Despite sometimes frustrating bureaucracies and limited successes, I took satisfaction from the work I did.

But I have found myself questioning how much "good" I am doing - in my new, retired life. Is it enough for me to volunteer where I can, and make some donations. That leaves a lot of time for golf, and for all the toys I've wanted. I'm also wrestling with the question of how I evaluate what to expect of myself. Isn't retirement the time for me to set some new standards with which to hold myself accountable?

I have the feeling that the generation that grew up with its President's charge to "do for your country" will now have a hard time in the transition to retirement. I don't think that I'm the only boomer that is going to need help searching for a new balance of being good and rich.

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