As I watch my children's adult lives (and the lives of my friends' children) evolve, I am constantly reminded that there are often no simple answers to life's choices and that tradeoffs must be carefully thought through.
It seems like it all comes down to what you do for your source of income and what you do with your life. (I'm sure there is something here linked to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs). All the nuances of where you live, your relationship with your partner, your family, etc. get wrapped up into just those two points.
Perhaps being a bit simplistic, I summarize adulthood into the beginning, middle, and end of one's working life. Along this spectrum there are pairs of questions and a decision as to which answer is more important.
- First, what job do I want? Where do I live? Then,
- Do I grow my career (and make more money)? What type of partner/parent will/should I be? Then,
- Do I keep working and how much money do I need balanced against what do I want to do with the rest of my life?
I'm at the last bullet and made the choice to retire from IBM. I'm thrilled with my decision with different work projects and a lot more activities on the life side, too. The reason it works for me is that I no longer have ties to a job and work hours (never really 9 - 5, but still pretty typical). I now have 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to pick and choose what to do.
I absolutely get to my desk late each day. I find the time for more lunches and time away on family things. And I do my work at all hours of the day and night. It took me a while to realize that that was my norm and now that I am aware of it, it's even better! I think I have a pattern that works.
As a contrast, William Falk in the Editor's Letter of the May 6 issue of The Week wrote a about of the retirement of his father, saying: "But I usually found him sitting at the kitchen table, creating work for himself amid piles of paper—micromanaging his retirement accounts, inspecting his doctors' bills. There was often a sad, wistful air about him; he never stopped missing his job and the pride he took in it".
A good reminder. I'll continue to be vigilant and hopefully self-aware, knowing what makes (my family and) me happy.
Those of you in the beginning or middle stages of work-life, think through you choices for your definition of being happy and successful. It is up to you to find the balance to ensure that it just keeps getting better.