U.S. CitiesCity-Data Forum Index
Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Retirement
Please register to participate in our discussions with 2 million other members - it's free and quick! Some forums can only be seen by registered members. After you create your account, you'll be able to customize options and access all our 15,000 new posts/day with fewer ads.
View detailed profile (Advanced) or search
site with Google Custom Search

Search Forums  (Advanced)
Reply Start New Thread
Old 02-12-2016, 11:15 PM
Location: Los Angeles area
14,018 posts, read 17,788,557 times
Reputation: 32309


This question comes up once in a while in our discussions, but I don't remember ever seeing it as the subject of a thread.

What got me thinking about it this time was reading a memoir entitled "Hell in the Pacific: A Marine Rifleman's Journey from Guadalcanal to Peleliu" by Jim McEnery (2012). Here is this ex-marine writing in his late 80's about the six years he spent in the Marine Corps. At the end of his book, he writes, "As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, I think I've always been a Marine at heart. And today, nearly sisty-six years after I received my discharge from the Corps and returned to civilian life, I still consider myself a Marine."

Now admittedly his experiences were so intense, so searing as to be incomprehensible to the rest of us. He will retain his identity as a Marine until his dying day.

I make no claim to such intense, searing experiences, but at age 71 I still consider myself a teacher. It's just who I am deep down inside.

I realize some people will probably think that it's sick and unhealthy to be defined by one's job or career, but I cannot agree with that. I do not define myself as a teacher to the exclusion of all else. I spent ten years riding bicycles in a serious way (once rode 300 miles in 23 hours) and did not think of myself as a teacher while doing that. Ditto with a few other hobbies - I tend to pursue my hobbies pretty intensely. I happen to enjoy exterior painting and have done a lot of that (not for pay) in the last six years or so, but that has nothing to do with my identity as a teacher either.

In other words, my identity as a teacher does not limit me, does not hold me back from other experiences; it is not a confining straight-jacket. But it is what it is and I see no reason to be apologetic about it. I didn't sit down and decide to adopt that identity - it is just there.

At the same time I am aware that many retirees do not retain the identity of what they used to do. I see nothing wrong with that either. I believe that identity is a complex psychological subject and I profess no expertise about it. I just know how I feel. I believe that some jobs/professions probably lend themselves more to life-long identifications that others.

Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message

Old 02-12-2016, 11:19 PM
13,357 posts, read 25,634,814 times
Reputation: 20652
After 33 years, I still cannot say "I am an RN." I can say "I work as an RN." It's not my identity now, and it won't be when I retire.
However, I am a copyeditor at heart, even though it's been several years since I did it for money. Now I just obsess about all the errors I see in everyday life, plus do people's LinkedIn profiles or resumes or check their whatever before they send it out.

I was briefly engaged to a Marine officer some 20 years ago. I learned from him that there is no such thing as an "ex-Marine," but only "retired." It really is a stamped-in identity for Marines. Don't know about other branches. I know my father, who fought in Europe, always said, "I'm just an old soldier" because it was the most important thing he did in his whole life, and likely the most noble.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 12:14 AM
Location: Silicon Valley
18,157 posts, read 23,113,673 times
Reputation: 35427
Maybe it depends on whether or not you loved your identity. I spent most of my years as a secretary, but like brightdoglover, it was always just what I did for a living. I was artistic and thought of myself as an artist of sorts who happened to be a secretary to pay the bills.

In fact, I signed up to do some volunteer work at a food bank today, and on the form it asks if you have any skills, such as office work. I'll never tell them I have those skills because they'll make me a secretary again against my will LOL. I offered to go pick up food or fill boxes. I just want something mindless without customer contact or phones or computers...

I could see being proud of being a teacher, though. It makes sense to me that you would continue to identify with being a teacher, especially if you loved it. Teachers make a mark on the world one little person at a time.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 01:02 AM
6,902 posts, read 3,906,291 times
Reputation: 15682
I no longer tell people I am/was an RN. You simply wouldn't believe what utter strangers will sometimes talk to you about. At a party one night, a lady actually started to tell me all about the results of her colonoscopy! Fortunately, I have also always been a painter, and I do share that. In fact most of my time now is spent painting.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 01:19 AM
449 posts, read 284,688 times
Reputation: 2953
I spent 30 years as a trial attorney. After four years of retirement, I no longer think or act in that capacity. However, I occasionally find myself with a problem to solve, and can almost physically feel the brain mechanism start to click and whirl in old familiar patterns. It's an entirely different way of using the brain than the new norm of undemanding reading and puttering and mild family responsibilities. Neither better nor worse, just different. So I no longer identify as, or think of myself as a trial lawyer, but I know the lawyer lurks within.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 01:31 AM
Location: San Diego
158 posts, read 150,318 times
Reputation: 669
Interesting question for many reasons. First of all, I, too, retired from a career as a high school teacher. In all, I taught for 36 years, the final 20 as an English teacher, teaching mostly honors level classes in a very good school system. I loved my job. I had great kids and I poured myself into the job. I literally worked from September into June; worked most weekends, most nights. English teachers are almost always grading papers when not teaching. I graded evenings. I took stacks with me on family vacations. To teach writing well is a very, very labor-intensive job. I don't know of any shortcuts.

My school's English Dept. was very proud of its reputation and we all gave 100% and supported each other. We took classes and pursued advanced degrees to keep ahead of our professors'-kids students. I remember thinking often that my students were literally smarter than me, it's just that I was older and had the benefit of more years of education under my belt. As I said, I loved my job until the day I retired. I knew my last semester that I should enjoy and remember each day because it was coming to an end and it was special.

I say all this because since retiring . . . that's it. It's over. I was a teacher. Now I'm not. Three years out, I rarely think of what I used to do. And that's after I literally lived the job and was consumed by it. As a matter of fact, I've noticed something since retiring that sort of supports this paradoxical disconnect: When I find myself in situations with other retirees (working with other retirees as a Padres usher, renting long-term in 55+ communities, etc.), I've come to notice that no one really cares what you USED TO DO! Initially, I had thought it was a defining criteria that had to be shared. But no one cares, and I don't either! It's actually freeing in a way.

That said, a few weeks ago, one night I couldn't sleep. I got up and got an old flash drive from my desk and plugged it into my computer and read files for a few minutes. That flash drive contained literally file drawers full of my teaching career--lesson plans, teaching notes, exams, recommendation letters, etc. Amazing amount, years in fact, of my career. It brought it back. One night of nostalgia. But I'm not a teacher. I don't teach anyone anything. I'm a Padres usher.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 02:15 AM
Location: Pennsylvania
16,409 posts, read 10,391,022 times
Reputation: 28721

the goal of retirement was to leave the job behind.

mission accomplished.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 02:25 AM
Location: New Mexico
6,670 posts, read 3,717,510 times
Reputation: 12560
A few people will ask but it is hard to explain what I did (criminal justice research) for so many years and their eyes glaze over. Now I just say government statistical work and they don't want to know after that. Even when working I made a conscious effort not to live in the criminal justice world...I still never watch American crime or court room drama TV shows. Oddly, I do enjoy foreign crime or police shows (Wallander, Montalbano or BBC detectives)

I still identify somewhat with my early retirement part-time job as a city planner and now I volunteer with an architectural group -- mostly I'm interested in preservation.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 04:29 AM
118 posts, read 141,242 times
Reputation: 283
I am an artist. I've been one in my soul since childhood. But it is only now in my 50s that I am able to explore what it means to pursue my art on a full-time basis. It's an exciting time for me.
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Old 02-13-2016, 04:37 AM
Location: Georgia
11,905 posts, read 8,693,798 times
Reputation: 8458
I think to retain a career identity after you retire from that career requires continual relevant interaction within that career. Some retirees in my first career end up working on standards committees and as advisers. They surely retain whatever label they bore while working for a living. I, myself, retain the label associated with my first career because my first career is the domain we serve within my second career, and so I wear two hats where I am now, an expert in what I used to get paid for as well as an expert in what I'm getting paid for now.

However, if you truly stop working within that domain, I think "I am a XXX" must become "I was a XXX".
Reply With Quote Quick reply to this message
Please register to post and access all features of our very popular forum. It is free and quick. Over $68,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum. Additional giveaways are planned.

Detailed information about all U.S. cities, counties, and zip codes on our site: City-data.com.

Please update this thread with any new information or opinions. This open thread is still read by thousands of people, so we encourage all additional points of view.

Quick Reply

Over $104,000 in prizes was already given out to active posters on our forum and additional giveaways are planned!

Go Back   City-Data Forum > General Forums > Retirement
Similar Threads
Follow City-Data.com founder on our Forum or

All times are GMT -6.

2005-2019, Advameg, Inc. · Please obey Forum Rules · Terms of Use and Privacy Policy · Bug Bounty

City-Data.com - Archive 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 - Top