I wrote a post on Instagram about Knots. So many women related to it, I thought I would write about it here too. I am usually so impatient when I try to unravel one that I end up making it tighter and harder to separate out the strands. The knot I am fingering and trying to be patient about getting undone is trying to sort out the difference between Purpose, Identity, and Work. I’m having trouble distinguishing between them. I have always functioned like work contained them all. My work has always defined my identity. When asked, what I do, the answer has always been, “I’m a social worker, I’m a professor.” Not, I do social work or teach. Interestingly when people ask me what I do now I say, I write. I have not yet felt worthy of the identity or maybe it’s because when I do it for all of you it brings me pleasure.
I don’t feel like working in the way I used to, always thinking about being productive and often feeling stressed out. I want to be challenged but I don’t want it to be hard. I don’t like the fact I have writing deadlines that must be met, it feels like pressure. These are such privileged concerns as there are so many women our age who must work, whether it gives them purpose, a sense of identity, or pleasure; it’s about food on the table and paying the rent. I have such enormous freedom at this time of life when it comes to working and I am not used to having it, I have always HAD to work, food on the table, and that sort of thing. Maybe that’s the issue I don’t know how to handle this freedom, it is something new.
While work has provided me with an identity, did it also provide me with a purpose? Maybe some of it has. When I began to sell things on Instagram, it became pretty clear that is not a purpose, and probably the reason I stopped. Somehow that leads me to believe purpose is the key. Maybe it’s enough to just keep writing and give people the words they need to say how they feel or write something that prompts a good think.
So I turn to my tribe of wise women and ask, Do you distinguish between purpose, work, and identity? If so, how? How have these shifted for you throughout your life? How are you thinking about them now? If I write about all this what is it most important to say?
I find that my artistic talents are who I am, being disabled since birth, I tend to let them form my identity. I am proud of myself to know that during my journey in life, I have been able to understand the meaning of the word: ‘identity’, and the fact that I let my true creative talents form who I am in a wonderful, positive beautiful way.
Dear Lyn, you are an admirable woman. Thank you for setting an example of an iconoclast who is not easily defined. It has been said that purpose is using what you are good at doing to make life better for someone else in some way. I am gathering that you have recently retired. This is an enormous transition. Move through it and gradually the outline of how your purpose will be used now will come into view. And then it may change form yet again.
I too have struggled to redefine myself in this post-retirement chapter. Adding to its complexity has been multiple transitions we have made within our country and with confronting a public health crisis. As they say, life is messy. Stay with your thoughts. I’m staying with mine. Keep us apprised of your journey. I look forward to hearing how you move through this transition.
I’m sixty years young and still work full-time as a Special Education teacher. I grew up in poverty, and fled home at 19 to attend college, but more so to put distance between my stressful life and family. After many jobs that were interesting, but not purposeful, I finally, at 40, completed college and began my career as a teacher. Teaching is my career and provides access to my PURPOSE, which is helping others, young and old. As I see it, teachers were there for me when I needed them and now I’m there for my students. I’ve dabbled in the thought of retirement, yet I get anxious when I think about actually retiring. I worry my ‘purpose’ will fade and I also fear of being poor again. I’ve saved and prepared for retirement, and I honestly will be fine, but because of the way I was raised the fear is part of my DNA. I have started my own Special Education Advocacy & Tutoring business, which is gaining momentum, and it will most likely become my exit plan to retirement from the classroom. Like you, I thrive and need cognitive stimulation and I have a love of learning. I have recently thought about attending law school, yes! law school. That’s the kind of mental drive I still have, but then my heart jumps in and slows me down. Maybe I deserve to slow down now, in spite of the fear it presents. I know I will figure it all out, and in the meantime I will continue my purpose of teaching others to read, write, and tackle difficult math problems that I once feared myself.
I so look forward to your new arrivals of discoveries as you are stepping into a World of total Freedom!
I will be welcoming level 80 in December!
I have be a Grand follower of Accidental Icon, Dear Lin, for a very long time.
You write as you are writing for all of we Women! Thank You!
I promise you as you focus on your moments slowing time – mostly your mind, and listen to the little person inside of you, amazing choices will come to you that will be exactly where you want to be!
My creative mind and will to find a way to figure out ‘Now What’ was not IT!
I thank all your followers for their sharing of Life as they know it.
Ah! How that resonates, and the knot analogy is perfect. The visual I get from picturing the knot and the way I and many of my colleagues and friends have gone through life is so telling. We are a knot.
The more you pull in one direction the more difficult it is to untangle the knot. To move on and look at the time we have in front of us, we need to gently untangle the knot so we can find our true purpose, identity, and work (however we define that).
Bravo on this post. I will be pondering this all day!
For so many years purpose and identity were my work. I was an educator for 50 years from pubic school grade 1 to grad school teaching and then as a private professional developer. Now that I am fully retired I no longer am sure of who I am…. I miss work but realize there is a time to let the next generation take their place. No longer sure of who I am ir what I should be doing!
I am what I choose to be If I had to define myself by what I did /do I would say I am a women and science would define me as such should my bones be investigated !
I joined the Canadian Armed Forces at 16 and spent the next 30 years serving my country, until severe arthritis ended it. I am a veteran. I had other occupations—including my current one of veterinary assistant with a specialty in feline behaviour. So, my purpose, identity, and work, are tied together even though I may be doing other work. I am still a veteran first. And I soldier on!
I am a mess and in knots about this subject and your words just made me realize this. I am having an identity crisis at 61. I was ill in my 50’s after a career of social work that left my spirit hollow and bitter ,demanding me do my own work. I ran and became ill and now am healed but don’t know my purpose, identity or work. I know financially I must make money but not sure how to do so in a way that brings me richness of life not poverty of soulfulness. I try to ask my grandchildren to guide me as they seem wiser in this regard but I know it is a time in my life where I must feel my way through without fear. Truth is waiting and the knot will untie and reveal my lesson.
‘Richness of life, not poverty of soulfulness’. Beautiful.
Kimberly, What you said resonated with me. I worked and then retired. In retirement, I had the freedom to more fully pursue my interests and explore new ones. covid hit the world. At the same time, I was diagnosed with cancer. The world was in a lockdown due to covid. My lockdown was due to cancer, many operations, chemo, and recovery. During that time, I was in survival mode. One day at a time. This too shall pass. Once the world returned to “normal,” my cancer, chemo, surgeries, etc. were completed. However, the assault on my body and life has changed me. I have lost the general sense of direction that seemed to come easily and naturally. Like you, I must begin again, a new chapter, and feel my way through to a new life, a second chance, without fear.
I also have had a career in mental health work that has left me feeling hollow. I just turned 60. I continue to work in the field part time. I don’t think of it as my purpose now. Its more of a job. After the post, I will stop trying to pull this knot in any direction. I will gently make contact and try feel it’s dimensions. How does IT want to unwind? Your reply really resonates with me. Thank you!
I have worked for over thirty years as an artist/ craftsperson. My identity took on the identity of my work a long time ago and I have lost myself. At sixty three I find I now want my life back. The work does not interest me much anymore. I work with my husband of 40 years and that has contributed to the loss of my own space. I find I want to travel which is something we have NEVER done. I want to look like a woman again instead of being covered in paint all the time. We have raised two boys which always made me feel like one of the guys and that’s how I was treated, nothing feminine to see here. I have a store show casing all of our work but I have become the store. Sometimes I feel like it’s choking me, holding me back, telling me who I am.
I do distinguish between purpose, work, and identity. As I get older, my purpose has become more clear – to love my family, be a good friend, and live in peace. During my work life, I saw myself as a wife, mom, grandma, healthcare provider and professor. Now that I have retired, that part of my life has shifted to what I see as a higher purpose and identity. It is no longer about what I “do” but what I can give to others, family & friends. I feel more content.
I like your response although I haven’t yet embraced it myself and turn 70 in December. Still work full time managing a group of nurses providing health care to 14 Indigenous nations who have suffered racism, oppression and trauma for 100 + years. Make it hard to leave with the nursing crisis/shortage since the pandemic. Plus I do love the work, the need for creativity to provide relational practice amidst poverty and the remoteness of the villages.
Love this. Thank you.
For me, work has always been my identity and when I am without I feel lost and without value.
Cognitively, I know this isn’t really true but I have always felt that I needed to justify my existence, prove that I was smart and demonstrate I was good enough in a crowd of professionals.
I can’t say that working ever really fulfilled that but it put me in the running, providing some validation.
In spite of all that, my greatest work, that is, most fulfilling has been raising a family. It just didn’t seem enough from the worlds eyes and wasn’t what gave me a sense of satisfaction in an “I’m capable” kind of way. The achievements of work fulfilled a very different sense of self that I really enjoyed and needed.
As for meaning, I have mostly worked in environments where I found the work to be meaningful. Would I say they were my purpose? No, definitely not. I am 62. I still struggle to find that mission or purpose for my life but as I age I think I realize that I also have underestimated the value of relationship and connection. With the pandemic somewhat behind us, I think many of us have come to find that we really need one another. I love purposeful work, finding solutions, making things better but my meaning is going to come through the deep connection fostered in true relationship.
I believe purpose and contributing is the key. I contributed to family income and provided a service to others, that gave me purpose. I felt useful.
Now that I have retired from work, I paint. My purpose is giving myself pleasure and an opportunity to express myself. Selfish purpose I guess but Im good with that.
Hi again! I’ve lost you ! Struggling with a new NB,an W11… and …with life,here,in Argentina. Beeing an Italian living here since I was 9 years old. I think ,pray , and count instinctively in my mother language. I was an Architect,now I’m a retired one,since my 75, with no regrets. Finally I’ve let my early white hair grows with feelings something like …”I’m proud!”
Happy to “see”you again!
Hi Lyn, thanks for writing.
My work is for bread and butter (and cucumbers and ham, when I’m doing well). If it is interesting, even sometimes enjoyable, that’s a great privilege. I’ve done plenty of work that’s not interesting and sometimes even painful.
My purpose took half a lifetime to become clear. It’s a deeper thing–connects me to my spirit, who I’ve been and who I am becoming. Transcendence. It’s closely related to my writing.
My identity is woven with work and purpose. But when I’m being blown by a fresh wind and holding my hat, I am being in myself, like a dog or a tree.
Even my purpose then is part of, not the whole of, being.
Tipping my hat to you.
Work is not who I am, it’s what I do. Having purpose matters, it helps one to realize they contribute and give to something. Lastly, identity is who you are at any given time and is not static. We cling to all three things to understand our place in the world.
What timing to see this now? I too am struggling with identity, purpose and work. I have been with company for 30 years and have found myself working so many hours I’ve lost touch with everything else. My husband gently reminds me I don’t have to stay and no decision for next steps have to be decided right away. Sounds great, doesn’t it? To have the support in quitting and taking time to figure out what, if anything I do next for work. How do you decide to quit on what has defined you, what has given you validity? So many what ifs. I’m the oldest of my friends so this question leaves me feeling unsettled and afraid. Afraid of what? Having a chance to learn who I am, what I like.
I have followed you quietly for a long time and marveled at how easily you exude personality, confidence and charm.
So thank you for your sharing this post and I look forward to your next Knots.
I am in a position similar to you. I call it being ReWired as opposed to retired. I’m about 2.5 years into this new found freedom where I have turned to making my own art- ceramics and painting. I too feel very privileged with this time and sometimes wonder if creating art is enough in this world, especially when I follow the bleak news. However, when someone purchases something I’ve created and I see the joy that it brings them, then I know that it is enough. It may not feed their body but it feeds their being with joy. So, I guess what I’m getting it is that I don’t distinguish purpose, work and identity. I am an artist who creates works that are sometimes utilitarian or just plain decorative, with the purpose of bringing joy to the end user. A good day for me is a day where I have helped someone in some way. Purpose for me is very important.
As a little child my grandmother would give me the shoes that has knots in the laces to take out. I would sit quietly focusing on how to work the knots out of the laces, rubbing the knot between my fingers with a little spit until one of the laces bulge up enough so that I could pull the knot apart. As I look at my life most recently,my knots were getting my 30 year old sons to move out of my apartment. It was time for them to find themselves and for me to enjoy myself. So I decided to stop buying groceries, cooking, washing their clothes and cleaning up behind them, but the biggest thing I decided to do was not to renew the lease on the apartment. So I packed up things and moved to a one bedroom room apartment.
Good for You!
This made me Laugh out loud!!! Loved it!!!!
I love your approach to helping your sons on their way. I hope they appreciate your purpose.
Winifred, I dove into your reply. I could feel the spit on my finger and the patience in your brow, the bulge in the string that didn’t want to leave the knot.
OMW🤗 Perfectly Perfect 💕 💃🏼
I currently work to pay bills and eventually not “have to” work or be dependent upon anyone. There are days my work has great purpose and others where it is simply a means to an end. I too love to write, but have never done it to make a living. At 60, I have continued to reinvent myself when necessary, learn from others, go inward more, share and love more. And I focus on having fun and the freedom of being ok most days. Love reading your writing, so please continue to share.
I used to work in sales/ marketing for large companies or subsidiaries of large companies because I did it well. At 54, I’d had enough. I now teach martial arts, tai chi and yoga as a contractor to schools, retirement communities and gyms. My sales hat is still on as a teacher and I have found my purpose. I am also a part time care giver to elderly parents, also an endeavor that is purpose driven. Working for corporate America never gave me the joys I receive daily as an instructor. Lastly, when someone asks “what do you do” I say I guide people to better physical, mental, emotional selves using martial arts and yoga.
I am often confused between the 3 as well. I feel I do not know what my purpose is or what my identity is. My work is teaching but it is much more than work. I love it and the relationship building that comes with being a high school teacher. I am also a wife and a 53-year old mom of two amazing kids but I am still confused!
I can relate. I have always considered work, be it paid or unpaid at home with children, to be full of stress, deadlines to meet and to be the best that I can be. It burnt me out. I am now having a hiatus in my late 50’s due to the passing of my younger brother this year. I couldn’t cope with work and bereavement, family and a mother with dementia. However, 7 months on, I am now feeling guilty for not working in a paid job, and am frantically looking for work. Having some knock backs with interviews is doing nothing for my confidence. I would love a job that I enjoy and is not stressful, however I am at a loss at to what to do. “They” say, do what you are passionate about. I’m passionate about health, fitness, mindfulness and food. However, don’t have any degree in this field, therefore am at a loss. My default is to go back to the stress of administration, but I feel I won’t enjoy this due to the stressful nature of the work. I am glad you have found something in your life that gives you purpose and meaning, and doesn’t feel like a “job”. x
Purpose. Work. Identity
You pose an interesting question and dilemma that is not often spoken about. We are of a similar age and like you I have recently stopped working .
Throughout my life work was never a choice. I “had” to work to take care of myself and then my family. Unlike todays millennials , I did not really question the real purpose of my work but strive to get the best position I was qualified for. Therefore after graduating Vassar, I went on to get my MBA in order to be taken more seriously . It worked. I played the game and worked for Fortune 500 companies until I left to start my own company.
I always wondered what it would feel like to simply live without “work” and now I have that . However, it is not quite as glorious as I had imagined it might be when I was younger and working 24/7. Along with time on my hands, money worries have been replaced by health scares and worries for me and my husband as well as family problems stemming from my grown children .
My purpose now is less elevated – exercising, dog walking, meeting with friends, travel, decorating and cooking. There is currently no work per se. My identity lingers in the past accomplishments of my education, travel, the company I ran for 30 years , raising a family etc. I’m not exactly sure what my identity is now and I am having a hard time recognizing the woman in the mirror. Soon to be 70, I still think I am 45!!
But of course the world does not and it has moved on.
I can only say that for the first time in my life I can focus s lot more on me, I just haven’t wholly figured out what to do with all this freedom. Do I write a book, pursue hobbies more seriously, become a great entertainer of friends, become politically active , ho back to school. I am still not sure but am mostly optimistic for this next chapter.
PS. I so admire you and have enjoyed all your posts!
Your post is my story – work, school, wife, mother. Now I find myself looking for a volunteer position that allows me freedom and fulfillment. So am I trying to find my identity again through volunteer work – always relying on something/one other than myself?
Thank you for these thoughts – shared by many I suspect, and certainly by me. My last paid work was 2019 – 2020 delivered unexpected full time retirement. Reflecting on the change has also led me to wonder about identity and purpose. I really look forward to the responses from the tribe!
My purpose has always been to see as much and to learn as much about the world as I possibly can before I die. Work was a means to an end for me. A skill that can pay the bills no matter where I lived. And with what’s left over, to go and see and do. I think of identity as the internal moral compass of my life. Always truthful, always honest, always loyal.
I’ve always linked my work to my identity too much. It can be a total let down when I don’t meet my expectations. I’ve endured a lot of rejection 2022 and it’s eating away at my self esteem and identity, so I decided something’s gotta give and a much needed reset and insight is what I’m pursuing. I’m now working with an art/life coach to see how I will approach 2023 and balance all of this. I’m excited about this! I am overwhelmed with all the moving parts: running my business, social media, business relations, self care, etc. I’m pouring less energy into Instagram now as the ROI really does not provide much as I am not a famous person. Without social capital and millions of followers, is it really worth it to pour hours of my life into IG? I’m not so sure. Time for a reset and looking forward to what’s to come. Your walking away from the Influencer World is really resonating to me as you could have stayed and kept rolling in the cash. Instead, you’ve decided to look deeper, by writing a book and exploring other passions which I am sure at the end of the day will be far more fulfilling than glorifying products most of us cannot afford. Looking forward to your book.
I am struggling with the same. After 40 some years in non-profits and the public sector, it is hard to find purpose in retirement. I worked on some of the most intractable human problems: housing insecurity and domestic violence. I feel burned out and not willing to give the emotional or mental energy to volunteer work. To feed my previously starved creative self I have been taking art classes for a few years. While I very much enjoy learning new things, it seems almost indulgent to be spending my days this way. I know myself well enough though that if I were to take on a new endeavor, be it volunteer or paid, I would quickly become the driven passionate worker I was before retirement. I am hoping to embrace the quiet in my life and not feel guilty.
At this time my purpose is my creative life but my work is not aligned at all with that or who I am (identity) or my natural talents. Seems like my whole life has been to work so I can work in my spare time at my art (purpose). Now I am so beat from the work, there may not be anything left once I finally get to the part of life where my work/job is in the past. Sadly less personal energy and less time left to do all the things I wanted to do, still want to do. I envy those who are blessed to have jobs or careers that they are passionate about and wanted rather than what they had to do.
Another great blog, thoughts and questions! I worked as a nurse and nurse practitioner for at least 35 years—maybe more—and the worse gave me purpose, an identity and a source of income. When I retired my purpose became reverting back to what I originally identified with, which was an artist. It was easy to revert back to painting and it was a surprise to identify as a nurse. If that makes sense
U r me! Nursing for 35 years! It gave me all of this. I had become director of nursing and my own health problems forced me to retire. Many things happened in life and I’m now able to again return to my passion n my true identity – I am and was an artist!
I can definitely relate! I will be 70 in January. I now am at the stage where I can choose how I want to represent myself and I have different “business cards” designed for each scenario. One for when I offer my services as a wedding officiant, another one when I present myself as an author. I have one that I give out when I represent as a board member of the nonprofit organization I serve on, and one for when I provide beauty services as a Mary Kay consultant. The fun part is, I get to choose and it makes sense! I have many retired friends who are in the same quandary so your blog will resonate! My purpose is simple:
To live until I die, and experience everything in between!
First of all, Thanks for asking the questions. I do think it is huge what you are doing; giving people the space to possibly uncover a deeper sense of what it is to be alive. A human simply being. My goal is to recover my 5 year old self; engaged, in wonder, and playing marbles from the 3rd line in the sidewalk. How I loved my pink round case that carried all my marbles. Now I find myself playing in a new sort of way. It is simply a different adventure.
Your comment resonates with me. I too believe part of my purpose is to reconnect with the child I was, the child who feared, and allow her to play, laugh and flourish in this adult body. I believe this will greatly align with my purpose and identity.
I find it interesting that you have published recent photos of yourself in half-light or semidarkness. This seems to go along with your struggle to establish a new identity after leaving your longtime identity behind. I agree that finding a new path is a bit of hit or miss. We each have to find what still gives us an identity that excites us enough to get up in the morning. Answers are so individual. I find for me maintaining social contacts is important. I cultivate my friendships. And I have a need to have aspect of learning – in my case – learning French. Those 2 threads do continue to support my identity. It takes trying on different “mantels” to see what fits. Good luck to us all
I struggle with this too. When I was younger (30’s-40’s) I struggled with what is my purpose- until I came to the conclusion that my purpose would change and morph in life- it’s fluid for me – not one purpose.
I’ve enjoyed work, and I enjoy challenges- but these change too. It’s best if I can enjoy and embrace the changes. My identity is a moveable wonder! It’s fluid. It’s okay. It’s awesome. One of my strengths is that I am adaptive and this serves me well as I go forward.
Like you, I’ve been working since I was 15. My parents position was always that if I wanted money, clothes, school, I needed to work to have it. Not as if they couldn’t afford to buy those things for me. I just had a step father who was withholding (tight-fisted) and dependent, weak mother. I’m still working at 68. Not hard work like standing all day in Walmart, MacDonalds or the drug store. Or cleaning houses, offices, toilets. Not like that. I have gradually laid some of the more demanding aspects of my work to rest. Like lecturing, seeing clients in person, uploading videos to youtube and writing a LOT to feed my other hungry, internet monsters. I talk to clients on phone or skype. Most of them are long term clients who have been with me for decades. I’ve walked a long life path with many of them and I’m honoured to still be asked to join them as they wrestle through life’s twists and turns. I must work though because our combined pensions only cover our rent, internet, transportation (no car) and we still must eat and wash take care of our medical needs. I am aware that I must remain healthy physically and mentally or we could be homeless within 10 years. A sad reality at any age.
My best work/purpose was working in the funeral industry. I helped people plan their final arrangements. It gave me an opportunity to meet people I would have never met. The retired Admiral that raised orchids. The fellow who invented a doo dad for a computer. He and his wife were salt of the earth. Bought their clothes at Walmart in 3’s so there would be one at each of their homes.
My clients were trying to make a terrible loss easier to manage for their children. Lots of stories.
What about today? I read, watch Netflix, knit, walk – get up when I wake up. Go to bed when I’m sleepy.
In the past I truly tried to be the good wife. The God-Mother. The Step-Mother. The friend. It all bit me in the butt.
So now I do what I want – when I want – for purpose I am kind to everyone.
Purpose, work, identity cannot be compartmentalized. Together, along with DNA and lie experiences, are who we are. We are kaleidoscopes. How others see us is is not something we control. We can be mom, wife, lover, sister, daughter, a frienamy or competitor at any given moment throughout our lifetime. Eye of the beholder. But. . . how we see ourselves is a whole other question.
I have not thought about this topic deeply before, how to unstrand the knot of purpose work identity puzzle which seems interwined inevitabaly. Purpose, since my mother’s death almost twenty years ago when i realized life is short and one must do whatever you are really into, I picked up my brush again and since then, my lifelong purpose is to become a great painter, for that i am still working on, and i think it would be a great way to die if i could just die during the process of painting holding my palette and brush. Work, it is a sounding fabulous but in fact bureaucratic government job, i had passion or drive to put myself into it when i was in my twenties and thirties, but with time and age, l became bored, and i convinced myself i just need to regard it as a means of earning money and stop trying to find meaning in work. Identity, this one is the hardest to figure out. when i think about it, the first thought is who i am ? woman? mother? daughter?partner?sister?friend? am i a person other people can rely on? which is the kind of person i want to be. but thinking it deeper, i have an answer, if anyone asks my identity, i would say i paint. thank you for intriguing me thinking things more clearly. your post is just as good as the coffee in the morning. have a nice day~~~
Forgive me if I have this all wrong but it seems to me that before you retired you were busy with all three — work — purpose — identity.
But didn’t you just move from Brooklyn to upstate New York?
Is it just possible that you need to learn how to (temporarily at least) do NOTHING but relax and explore?
That won’t automatically turn you into a sloth.
You may be missing something in your current low key surroundings perhaps for fear of losing the you that you have always known yourself to be — but I’m betting that this won’t happen.
If you’ve been a social worker and a professor they are two very demanding professions.
Learning to be a new version of yourself in your new home and community takes some present time focus — you might begin with learning all the history you can about your new town — I did that when I moved from Manhattan to Colorado in 2016 and it helped me “plant myself” in my new community.
I think at least temporarily, you need to downshift — not to worry — you will still have the time to find new purpose and meaning.
In my experience, both suffered through and joyfully living on the other side of it in this moment ..the answer is not to distinguish Purpose Work Identity in the sense that we have been programmed to do over decades and millennia. Rather, it is to get underneath these human constructs and ask the bigger existential question .. Who Am I ? This question has a multitude of answers … and EveryOne of them is correct. Why? … Because this multitude of elements that we refer to in responding to this inquiry ultimately make up the design of human being. Each individual is made up of these elements that make up QuintessentialYou and quintessential me. Only each one of us can distinguish these elements from resonance within our own BEing. These elements never change at the fundamental level. Their form, however, takes a plethora of different expressions over a lifetime …. if we co-create and collaborate and have a willingness to be surprised.
It is a discipline and practice, this co-creating with Universe … it takes time and presence and the payoffs are enormous, yielding both serenity in Essence and perfection in Expression.
I invite EveryBody reading this post to visit http://www.QuintessentialYouDesign.com … and begin by discovering the EssenceExpression that you are. Herein lives your infinite Quintessential Self from which all Purpose … Work …Identity generates, creates, and finds its place moment to moment, day to day, year after unfolding evolving year.
An interesting dilemma, that for me also coincides with turning 69. Still working freelance 4 mornings, but wondering who I am, when I chose to stop, which may be at the end of next year. What to fill my hours with then. I have hobbies and interests, but do they fill a day and leave me satisfied with myself? I have had to work for most of my adult life, and had to rethink what I did when I moved abroad 45 years ago.
While I had always felt compelled to be of service to others,
it became increasingly clear that I needed to turn inwards.
I believed that a deepening could arise
out of a quiet and more contemplative life
I had always thought I longed to have more time
But I had actually longed for a stronger connection
With the timeless and eternal now.
Alienation from the sacred dimensions of life
had begun to sneak in without notice.
Retiring from the service to others
afforded me the space to become more accepting;
of myself, of aging, and even of planetary strife.
Acceptance allows me to look through
to places that lie beyond time and space
to the wholeness and balance that rests quietly
beneath the noise.
I sit without expectation nor anticipation.
I simply sit.
I do not wait.
I no longer wait for anything.
I enjoy the breezes when they arrive
and bask in the stillness when they don’t.
I am rejuvenated to live moment to moment again,
without steering or pushing or coercing my fate.
I delight in standing upon the current crossroad of the present.
I am relieved to exhale
As I enter the season of waning,
where death’s shadow hovers
There is nothing worth stressing over.
Solitude and silence inform me
in deeper ways than communicating with others ever has.
I look within and find very few remnants of my driven self.
I bask in the Presence that emanates in it’s place
My gifts to the world include all that I have said and done
but they also now include the peace, love, and joy that I exude.
It is my humble contribution to a chaotic world.
Very well sad!!! I loved your writing. ~_~*
Slowly, after retirement almost 3 years ago, the knots have loosened. I welcome the less chaotic and stressful demands it brings me. With this new chapter, I am able to become me again, not so tightly wound. I welcome the day as it comes. I am able to take the time to look more closely at the world and focus on its beauty and to explore my creative self again. I am loving the quiet times, to sit and not have to think, or plan, or stress, but to just sit and breathe.
Please do write more. I would like to poste your poem on my bulletin board at work as I continue to struggle with my decision to stop working.
Thank you so much for your reply . It touched my heart . I would so love to communicate with you. I thought of your reply to this question today with a very stressful day.
Thank you so much for your reply . It touched my heart . I would so love to communicate with you. I thought of your reply to this question today with a very stressful day.
Why do you never reply to peoples comments. It’s sad when people write or comment but you don’t respond. People out so much into their thoughts. I feel you should reply to them
If you go back to all my previous posts you will see I do reply. It may take me a couple of weeks to get to it, but
I read each and every comment on every post and reply to them.
Do I distinguish between purpose, work, and identity? Yes. They all intersect however, and I would go so far to say that they are inexorably intertwined.
Purpose can be much broader than work, and identity a subset of purpose, particularly for for those of us who have the luxury of our work aligning with and supporting our sense of purpose. Why? Because it is much easier to be comfortable in our own skins knowing that what we do is good and right in the world. That may not mean that our work is easy, but when it is in synchrony with our blueprint for the world, it is simple.
As a younger woman, I used to take much more of my identity from being a mother, and my purpose was to serve my children and to bring them up safely. I still identify that as my “first job,” indicating that intersection between all three, work, purpose, identity. However, children tend to grow up and leave, causing my identity to shift.
In my view, purpose is unique to the individual, and it is an intuitive, even spiritual, inspiration from within that guides us to make decisions in the actions that we take. It is something in existence in the universe that we sense is much bigger than we are, and those of us who are fortunate enough to be in tune with it, I would hasten to say that we find more satisfaction in our lives.
For the lucky, their work is a vehicle for their purpose. For the not so lucky, work solely may be a means to an end, and for some of us it can be crushing to the soul. We experience cognitive dissonance as we grind through each day, painfully aware that it serves a one-dimensional purpose. The broader purpose for our lives is not served in this situation, and as I have observed, this can cause identity problems. Here we see the intersection of work, purpose and identity once again. There is the sense, and even longing, for more, but yet those yearnings remain stifled until something shifts for us, whether it is a crisis, a revelation, an opportunity, serendipity, or simply a decision that something has to change.
There have been many such shifts throughout my life. One such shift was finding myself single with only an 8th grade education. I was branded with the societal identity as a “welfare mom.” I sought job training but was turned down because I was considered a poor risk given that I was older than the “target pool” of younger recipients. I was branded with the identity of a “displaced homemaker.” Fearful for my future and the future of my children, I made the decision to attend school for as long as I could, given that I was not going to get any outside help from others.
I studied for my GED and attended community college while I waited for the Jobs Program. My identity shifted from welfare mom to student while I worked toward achieving my purpose of being able to support my children.
I obtained my associate’s degree and was about 8 months shy of obtaining my bachelor’s when I finally was offered job training. By then, I had taking steps towards applying for law school, grateful that I hadn’t listen to the naysayers who told me not to attend school because “they” would cut my aid. I made another decision that no matter what, I would finish my education and I did. My identity shifted again from student to graduate, to bar student to attorney.
When my last child left home, I felt as if I was out of a job and similar to the shift I faced when my husband wanted a divorce years beforehand, when I found myself single again, this time with three children, no longer invited to social gatherings as I was simply a “1” without a plus one. My identity as “—‘s wife” was ripped away from me as I was replaced by a better model. I went from “we” to “me,” and in those early years, my non-custodial days filled me with anxiety; some days, it felt like I didn’t know who I was.
Today, in my late 50’s, I am still shifting through work, identity, and purpose. The difference is that now, with many life experiences under my belt, I understand that sometimes our work is a means to an end and sometimes that is okay. I am reassured that things can and do change, and I am more in tune with why I would experience cognitive dissonance and dissatisfaction from work. And, I also understand that I do have a choice, and I am fortunate for that. When my dissatisfaction reaches a point, I will shift again. The key is not waiting too long for that to happen, and staying in tune with my ideals, open and inspired to the awareness of new possibilities.
That is where you come in!
I’m a man. Am I allowed to make a comment here? I’m inspired to write briefly because I totally understand your knot. I don’t think any of what you talk about is isolated to your gender. My working life came to an almost complete standstill with the pandemic. I’m 65 and have worked non stop as a freelance director practically my entire adult life. “I’m a director”. But I needed to travel to work as almost all my work was away from home. That was no more. So I retreated and wrote a novel. That consumed me. But then on reflection after 2 drafts I knew that needed a complete re-write. By then we were coming out of Covid and some semblance of “normal” was returning, my working life excepted. I don’t need to work even though the income does help. So I’m free not to. And that’s hard to handle. The work, the title, the routine defined me. Those parts of the knot have come loose.
The plus side is that now I’m much less stressed, I enjoy the simple things of my life like gardening, walking, being with my wife, more because I have time for them whenever I want, pretty much. I’ve gone back to working occasionally this year but there’s no longer that pressure to do it because that’s the wheel I’m on, because it’s part of my knot. It’s not!……
Dear Lyn: Thank you for this post. I so appreciate your writing —and this post, like others, is refreshing, thought provoking, insightful and wise in its questions. I am working, but have thought about the questions you raise a great deal. I started thinking about friends who are no longer working, and almost to a person, say how much they love not working, and don’t miss one iota the grind or stress. This seems to be so whether they spend their days very leisurely, or are highly active with volunteer activity, hobbies, occasional working, grandchildren, etc. I do believe you have landed on the the vital question of purpose, and it is something I have started to think on and read about. The author Martha Beck comes to mind, as she has written deeply on the subject, and I have recently purchased a few of her books. In my heart of hearts, I believe that understanding and following one’s purpose are an important key to contentment and joy – regardless of age. I hope you will continue to write more on this topic. With respect and admiration, Patricia
It seems to me that purpose lies in living each day, whatever the circumstances, in the very best way possible and not just for myself, but for all those in my sphere of experience. This is not easy because within every 24 hours a litter of events arise to provoke, dismay, confuse, crush… as well as the good stuff. Identity is so often tied up with work because from the get go every ‘I am’ has an attachment. I am a child, I am a daughter, sister, colleague, wife, mother, policewoman etc etc. None of which is our identity and certainly not the definition of ourselves. Identity, for me, is a place inside that allows you to be your best self outside, untethered by external experience and completely whole. That stops at ‘I am’ which is everything. Work is a means to an end, can be pleasurable of course or simply the way to exist within the framework the world offers us. How we choose our work is informed by all those past events, circumstances and experiences personal to our life span, so it may reflect who we think we are, how we want others to perceive us, it may be valuable to society or not but it doesn’t define us and we may make it our life’s purpose but that would be missing the real point. I’m peeling back the layers of what I’ve been told about me, unlearning myself to come clean. My knot is unraveling.
Thank you for giving me the knot metaphor. As I mused on it, it came to me that I am working on turning my knot into a colorful woven piece of art.
My family defined my identity at an early age, by saying I am the artist in the family. Coming out of a 2 year painting and drawing mentorship as a teen, I embarked on an art career to support myself. Having to supplement my not always profitable art income, started my messy knot as I worked in restaurants, and later in sales.
The knot tangled and tightened when I had children, and then became further messy when my husband died. Each time I tugged at and loosened the knot I found the colorful art thread woven through the knot that re-confirmed my identity.
Now as I am beginning my 7th decade I am spending more and more time painting in my studio, I feel the knot loosening and it’s a physical and emotional release of the knot. Always mindful of the need to earn my income, I’m grateful for the monthly social security check that comes as a result of alternating between following my creative passion, and the need to put food on the table. I can feel the knot loosening and becoming more beautiful with each finished painting as I immerse fully into my identity as an income earning artist.
I feel that having this knot metaphor will help me keep the threads colorful and loosely woven. I feel a painting coming through…and I am grateful.
Thank you for the opportunity to mull over these issues. I’ve worked as a professional freelance writer for more than 35 years, and I could opt to “retire” from writing at any point. It’s not about the money, although I do like making a little money from what I love to do. But I’ve realized, in my late 60s, that I am happiest when I’m busy and working. My work is a connection to others, making me less self-absorbed and anxious. The whole process of getting writing assignments, crafting and researching articles, editing my work, ands so on, keeps me thinking outside myself. Because of what I do, I’m often asked to teach community workshops, which also connects me to others and also gives me a sense of purpose and contribution. I think this is important as we age — to feel useful, needed, and productive.
What about identity? For me, again, the most important thing is knowing that I am making a contribution. Identity is tied to caring about what others think of me, and I want to be too busy to worry about that.
I used to feel this knot, most especially when I approached the end of my employed life, wondering how I would cope when I was no longer a nurse/a professor/a leader. Once retired, however, those things feel far more like free floating strands than tangled knots. I still engage with all three but mostly through commentary, advice or writing and I tend to try quite hard not to get involved in anything because I don’t want any obligation or difficult activities any more – so I can fully empathise with your own thinking. I learnt to disentangle my identity from my profession and my work a long time ago, mostly as a result of a breakdown caused by wrapping my identity in work and profession. In exploring my way out of that (with help), I learnt to separate these things and feel them connected rather than embedded in each other. That was a long time ago.
In retirement I am living the identity that was subsumed by those other lives for so long. I am lazy – I don’t do much that I don’t want to , I am creative – I knit seriously, I have time to write – for myself and sometimes others, I am relatively selfish – I have a husband but no children or grandchildren, I am happy, I am privileged with sufficient income to live and do the things I want to do. I am thankful for all of this.
I don’t fret over those strands of identity, work, profession etc. It’s pointless. Let them float.
Maybe because I come from a working class family — where work was economic necessity and not tied to purpose — I have not tied my identity to work. I connect identity and purpose and in work have either sought jobs and organizations grounded in my values or tried to bring my values to the work spaces. I was fortunate to have a job that provided paid sabbaticals for all employees, and during my last sabbatical, I “rehearsed” retirement, which i call “rewirement.” Now that I’m in rewirement I feel that I have even more freedom to live and act from purpose. My identity from childhood has been connected to feeling a call to create a world that works for everyone. That may be because I lived through various movements for justice and these have stuck with me. However, I also feel that justice is foundational to my spiritual values — justice bound with compassion and creativity.
I have worked at different jobs that have given purpose to my life and in which I may have identified (teacher, administrator, wife, mother…). At age 74 and long retired from public work, I know my life purpose is to live daily in creativity, find joy in the beauty, truth and goodness of myself, others and this world and continue to learn and grow in ever greater love.
Once, a long time ago, a French woman taught me in her country everyone takes one month vacation from work. She taught me that professional work is what “we do, not who we are… work does not define us as a person”, she said. She went on to explain when in France one is asked, ‘Who are you?’ No one replies with, I’m a doctor, professor, attorney, teacher, etc. One replies with something about themselves to define who they are for example, ‘I’m creative… I love to write and read; I enjoy the outdoors. I am a mom and close to my family.’ This woman, with whom I befriended said that in the U.S. we are socialized into believing we are part of the machine where our identity fits into a part of society that pushes Capitalism forward for the few who control and are rich. And when the professors, accountants, buyers, financiers, teachers, clerks, etc retire they lose their identity and look to seek a new chapter in their lives, whereas the French learn from an early age that work is only a chosen field, in which to make money for the purpose of enjoying activities in life. Those activities, talents, hobbies, define their character, hence purpose, ultimately who they are. I learned this when I was 30 years young. But this is hard to establish in the U.S. where taking more than two weeks vacation away from the office, truly away…not to work at all… is never approved unless one is smart enough to teach lower grades or in higher ed. Further, professors are granted sabbaticals yet, their sabbatical is entwined, knotted, with a absolute deadline to create a body of work tied to their career. I’m a young 67, ugh. And I just won’t stop working hard for myself for those activities in life I enjoy. This does cost me dearly while continuing to work full time as a software programmer in higher ed, year round. For there are times (like yesterday) where I’ll pick up delivered fresh groceries, run home play with my dogs, and put together a crock pot of beautiful chicken soup. Yes, it tied me in knots when coming back to campus and mixing up meeting times, being late, and lastly missing the first 30 minutes of a meeting. Of course I felt like crap… it knotted me up. Was it worth going home at all during lunch? I don’t know. It is what it is, I tell myself. I want a full life as mother to a teen (14 y.o.), a horse owner, with dogs and a cat a home I love and is in disrepair for no time to focus on those interior doors falling off the hinges. Work does get in the way of life. And that is what I know to be true. And if I get my panties in a knot for living my life outside of work, even if for an hour+, then it is what it is. hmmmm… I think I’d do it all over again. At 6p when I stepped through the door of my home, my dogs were happy, homemade food smells swirled up into my senses, and work was a distint from my mind.
Mary, thank you for writing about your French friend. As I have been reading everyone’s comments, I keep wondering how women in other countries – both Western and Eastern – view this stage of their lives, and whether they have the same struggles. We can’t stop being Americans, but I have found it helpful to know there are other ways of seeing things in the world. I completely agree here in America what we do to earn money both defines us to ourselves and determines the respect we give ourselves and others, and that is especially true in “professional” fields. I became a teacher for a few years as a second career (after being a stay-at-home mom and unemployed), and I was very aware of how much more respect people gave me when I told them what I did. When my teaching career ended after a layoff, I too struggled to define myself, and figure out how to regain some social respect. Even though I’ve been mostly retired for a number of years now, I can’t say I have been completely successful. I still say I’m semi-retired because I work a few weeks a year on an annual project. However, now that I’ve had years of getting as much sleep as I want and filling my days with what I choose (more or less), I also find I care less about what people think. I feel my purpose is to be healthy, happy and positive, especially in these difficult times, and I believe I would feel this way even if I didn’t have a husband and adult children. I have not yet found that being appropriately positive hurts others.
Lynn, I agree with the woman who pointed out that you have recently moved from the most intense city to a quieter and more rural area. That is important, and I think part of your knot is related to the change. Her recommendation to turn your attention to getting to know your new area better also seems like a good one. An identity challenge you didn’t mention is just that – from intensely urban to much less so. That’s huge. I see you as an empathetic person who likes to share knowledge with others, and that is a quality that will likely be appreciated even more in a small city than a large one. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Through Pope Francisco I met the Untied Virgin (la Virgen Desatanudos). So, every time I have a knot, I pray.
Thank you for another wonderful post – makes me think and reflect.
When I met new people, the first question they asked was “What do you do for a living?” – making work/career defining who I was. Now I have moved to a new chapter in my life where I am not defined by what I did to earn a paycheck. I can’t control what people think of me or how they define me. I find it liberating. I want to treat people with kindness, empathy and respect. I am 67 years old, and I feel happy – and it took a long time to reach that stage in my life. I am comfortable wearing clothes that make me look and feel amazing. I love having my hair cut very short. I smile more.
“I” am a Ball of Knots…each knot unraveled from its overbearing grip, reveals so many more…With each knot delicately loosened, the weight of knowledge, happiness, sadness, wisdom…the loss of Time. Experiencing each knot shed, comes the realization that Freedom leaves you lost in a world of undefined wonder, uncertainty and vision of time lost and dreams not yet touched…new dangling threads imagined in the fear of new knots forming…But…what if you were to embrace the freedom, fear, knowledge of time left…and began to live fearlessly, with joy…agelessly.
Choose that Path,…Choice is the most powerful tool you have left…Choose the authentic YOU❤️🍀
Good Day, Ms. Slater,
Question: Our Identity?🫂
I’d like to Preface MY Comments by offering that THIS ‘Particular Post’ showed up AT A ‘KAIROS MOMENT’, in my Yahoo Mailbox,..💃🏼
Having said that, As much as I Admire You, (The Person’, WHO invites Us, to ‘Muse’ Various Pertinent Questions in Life) & also with the Upmost Admiration & All Due Respect, I MUST ADD, that I RARELY FINISH ANY of YOUR POSTS OR VENTURE A COMMENT’
PLEASE, 💕 LET’S MOVE ON 🫂
When I saw your email, I ACTUALLY EXCUSED
MY-SELF 💃🏼 from my Daily ‘Quiet Time’ with My Papa-God🫂 YES MA’AM, (The God of Genesis 1:1 GOD)🕊️
In Order to Finish My Original Idea 🤔 of “Let’s just take a Peek”🧐 curiosity at Your Contents.
*At This Point: The Question may be, WHO AM I?💃🏼
So Far I’ve been part of The HUMAN RACE (no pun intended)🤗 for more than 77 years & counting!
I’ve been A Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Friend, Employee & Employer all over the COURSE of ALL THOSE YEARS.
Of LATE, HOWEVER, I’ve ‘GRATEFULLY’ Come to Understand, More Clearly, what King Solomon:
‘The Wisest Man who ever lived’ meant, when He Pinned Ecclesiastes 1:1
“Everything Is Meaningless”
” Vanity, Vanity”
“ALL IS VANITY”
I Quote Verse:
1) THE WORDS’ of THE TEACHER, SON of DAVID, KING in JERUSALEM:
MY PERSONAL OBSERVATION:
EVERYTHING WE ‘DO’ Not Necessary Think or Believe’ (SOLELY of OURSELVES) IS ‘VANITY (In the long run quite meaningless)’!
Which may be ‘WHY”
OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS’ Often End Up ‘FEELING’ (Empty, Futile, and SHORT-LIVED), with US not really understanding The Impact they may have in the lives of Others).
PERHAPS, IN THE END, It doesn’t really matter if you’re,
(Who made some really ‘Unwise’ Choices) OR
(That ‘We Are’, at times) OR
(those We See, in The News)
WE Will ALL:
TO TIME, SO SPEND IT WISELY (Or, if Necessary, Ask God to ‘Show us’ how to redeem Ephesians 5:16
ECCLESIASTES 3:11-14 SAYS
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear (Honor, Respect) HIM.”
SPEAKING OF ‘TAKE AWAY’?🤔FOR ME?💃🏼
Look at 🧐 THE FUTURE’ with 🕊️EITERNITY🕊️🤔 In Mind..
THAT’S WHERE OUR SPIRITS & SOUL WILL LIVE FOREVER:
SOLUTION! John 3:16 SELAH (Think on these things)
Who am I? What do I want? How can I serve? Identity, purpose, work. These are questions and topics that I need to answer to untie my knot. Living my best life. Being the best version of myself—the highest and truest vision of my soul. We know when we are in sync with our higher purpose. Everything seems to fall into place easily. Life is smooth. Serendipitous events emerge out of nowhere. People and events show up in our lives. Choices we make influence which direction our lives take. Sometimes in hindsight our life path is made clear. It is good to slow down, take time, and think on these things. In quietness and stillness our path may become clear. We may not always see it at the time, but looking back in the past, we will see our life’s path and purpose.
I’m 71 and have been retired for a few years. My financial status tells me I need to work but my joy in just BEING is paramount after forty-eight years in a service profession (nursing). I create art that pleases me. I get up when I feel like it. I unashamedly seek pleasure. I spend my time with people I love and who love me. I knit simple things with lovely materials. I take joy in nature at every opportunity. My son planted a gingko tree in the back yard that delights me in every season. I spend time with my grandchildren whenever they are available. Mostly I’m in the business of finding fun in every day.
Wow – Inspirational …
From this point onwards I’m going to adopt that way of thinking ..and answer the question of what I do with ..
‘I’m in the business of finding fun in every day’
Thank you sooo much for sharing
I spent my whole working life taking care of others, whether in the hospital as an x-ray/radiation therapy tech, on the airplane as a flight attendant, or in the treatment room as an esthetician/massage therapist. Approximately ten years in each profession. Now that I am 70, my life is filled with volunteering at the Help Center ( a place where people in need can shop for clothes free of charge) and Letters Against Isolation, a group started by two young girls who send out addresses of nursing homes, assisted living, memory care, meals on wheels, etc. I make cards and send them to whatever home I choose. All over the country and other countries too. Check it out on FB!
Recently I have been involved in learning the way of the Shaman. Getting in touch with nature on a deeper level and myself in the process. I have always been attracted and interested in Native American ways and shamans in other countries. I am currently in a course called Walking the Beauty Way. I am so happy to have found this path.
I no longer have to work, so that enables me to pursue my heart’s desire. I realize that I am right where I am supposed to be and will take one step at a time! Aho!
I have enjoyed your ascension to Accidental Icon so much! You are beautiful, humble and honest. All desirable traits. This post captured my attention so much and I felt compelled to respond because as women we often connect our purpose to the roles we pursue as wives, mothers, sisters, friends, etc. I believe we are so much more than our roles, we have an even deeper meaning. The best scenario is for your purpose to define your identity and for your identity to determine your work. The equation would be: purpose = why we are here. Identity affirms that we are here and work should be a demonstration of our purpose and identity.
Purpose, Identity and Work are interconnected and interdependent. It’s really hard to “establish” ourselves to harmonize succinctly between purpose, identity and work because the demands of life and responsibilities often sabotage us and propels us into survival mode.
The solution in my opinion is to be purpose driven in spite of our circumstances and to be identity focused (never settling) as we create a situation that allows us to pursue our purpose and establish our identity through our work. That is the formula, the great equalizer that will center and ground us.
Today’s blog resonates with me as I’m 75 and have been retired for 10 years and still feel like I need to justify my freedom of not having to work. Having worked since I was 16, I should be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor with my wonderful husband who has also worked his whole life. But, so many around me are still working and mainly out of necessity which makes me think maybe I should be doing the same because “suppose we outlive our funds!” What a waste of my remaining years and I know this as well as I know all in God’s hands but just can’t shake this mindset. Ugh! Thank you for this thoughtful article.
Interesting topic, and I love the use of knots to describe where you are at the moment. Thinking about work, purpose and identity is interesting but not something that I worry about a lot. My work has never been my identity or purpose. I work to live, not live to work. Cliché perhaps, but true for me.
I never had a passion for any particular type of work, although I sometimes wished I did. I spent a few years as a stay at home mom, which was my identity for a time, I suppose. Divorce pushed me back in the work world, and since then it’s always been about making a sufficient living to provide for myself and my children. I am extremely fortunate to have landed with a good company that provides excellent benefits and takes better care of their employees than the average corporation. But it’s still work, a means to an end, and not how I define myself. I enjoy my reputation as someone who knows & performs her job extremely well, but I could leave it tomorrow and not look back if I were sufficiently prepared for retirement.
My identity? Partner, mother, family member, human being. My purpose? Live, try to enjoy it, understand that it’s finite and oh so sweet. Let go. At my age, I I feel that my purpose is to witness the sunrise, the colors in the autumn woods, to be kind, to be a good friend. I acknowledge my privilege and extreme good fortune in being able to look at and live my life this way, and I also say that I’m not trying to address all of the world’s ills and issues here. I am aware of them. I feel extremely lucky to come from where I was 17 years ago to where I am now.
I make a daily choice to live my true nature – that is everything for me, it is my identity, it is my work and my purpose is a beautiful side effect. The more I take pleasure in being me, the more others benefit from that and the more I receive the necessary rewards to do all that I love. It has been a journey to get here. I highly recommend William Whitecloud’s book Secrets Of Natural Success and his almost free online course.
£2970 usd doesn’t seem to be ‘almost free’ !
A friend sent me this post. I certainly can relate. Life is what it is. Now a widow, and in my late 70’s.. it has been an adjustment at times, but I am a person who lives one at a time… in PL.. we say Life is Art. (Perfect Liberty a church out of Japan)
“Life is Art”
That is most perfect motto I have ever heard!
I always enjoy your inspiring posts. During the last two years, I untangled my own roadblocks and allowed myself to record and release original rock/blues songs that finally spoke from my true feelings. The feeling of empowerment is amazing!! I encourage others to find strength and energy to accomplish something that stirs your heart and creativity…sending my thoughts to everyone to keep moving forward with determination and purpose!!
I read this post a couple of days ago and have been thinking about it. apparently so many of you have responded and I have not yet had a chance to read them all. I also had the thought why it’s women who seem to have this as an issue. I wonder if men might respond in different ways or even think about it. As I have gotten older this has become more of an issue. one day I wrote out all the ways someone might label me. mother, grandmother, psychologist, yoga teacher, equestrian, dog walker, liberal and so on. and I realized that last night I had dinner with a group of friends who might not identify me by any of these labels. we are older, 70’s and 80’s for the most part, and met as part of a book discussion club, so they might see me as a reader with hopefully intelligent viewpoints. and although many of the earlier labels have altered, I am retired, my children are middle aged and grandchildren really young adults, the horse passed away and such, they are all part of my experience and who I am today.
Another very good theme that you describe that is important to consider.
Actually I am NOW the version of myself I want to be and the challenge is that I can develop myself in this every day in a normal natural way without questioning it.
Of course it has taken time and the struggle for new values and challenges has sometimes not been easy, but it is now paying off. The period of closing the professional was difficult for me, the contacts, the feeling that it would stop offering my services and advising people has been floating around in my head for a long time when I started my retirement.
Fortunately I was able to place myself above (after many conversations with my husband who has supported me a lot in this) Gradually I have untangled the knot and I experience the joy of my new version every day….
Thanks again Lyn for your interesting topics you bring up!
Thanks Lyn for your words that certainly have prompted a Good Think and also love the “knot” analogy.
Distinguishing Purpose – Work – Identity – the strands definitely get knotted as circumstances change along with societal changes and our own and others expectations.
In my 40’s working in a large hospital as a ‘Receptionist” my duties included medical typing for two Orthopaedic Specialists, two Department Managers,
Patient appointments and ambulance service, phone enquiries and other office administration- but I did not see the work I did fit with the “title” and because of that felt “less” within myself. I have a strong work ethic so my purpose would be to do a good job.
In my 50’s after studying and gaining a Diploma in Therapeutic Massage I definitely had a purpose. I loved what I did and saw that I was making a difference to others. There was self-satisfaction in further study.
Some time later I took a break to move closer to our young grandchildren and during that time I remember writing in my journal that I felt as if I had lost part of myself as I was no longer a Therapist. But recognised it took away my “Identifying Title” Reading this a year or so down the track I added this comment “How sad are you when you need a title to identify yourself”
In New Zealand a subtle difference in greeting new people,
between Maori and Pakeha (a white New Zealander opposed to a Maori person)
Pakeha is more likely to ask “What do you do?”
Maori is more likely to ask “Where are you from” –
your home and connection to people and places is far more interesting that what you do for money.
Still working on undoing some knots – happy days!
Thank you so much for your thoughts provoking blog..
So much of what you say resonates very strongly with where I currently find myself.
I was brought up with the Protestant work ethic which conflicts with the idea of freedom to enjoy life …
I have been driven to achieve and constantly look behind and in front to assess what I have achieved and what goals I need to set to achieve in the next 12, 9, 6, 3 month periods ..
How to let this mindset soften in order to enjoy my new found freedom in retirement is the knot I am battling … impatiently !!!
I can so appreciate “the knot.” It’s timely for me. For the past 35 years, my work as an artist, a painter, has been my livelihood. It’s what most folks seem to do when they retire, as a pleasure. When it’s a career, sometimes there’s pleasure, often it’s just showing up at the studio. Now, after so long, I don’t have the pressing financial need to work. I’ve allowed myself time to drift and to experiment. I don’t think of being an artist as necessarily my work, but it is my identity: I am in all things creative and I think most people are too. I’m currently transitioning from painting into fiber arts that incorporate paint. It’s learning new skills and possibly an end to the gallery relationship I’ve had for 30 years. Not everyone will like it. I have become identified with a subject matter. I’m in the midst of exploring my negative capability—that ability to exist in doubt and uncertainty without grasping after conclusions. I’m glad I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing your own process, Lin. It helps clarify a lot of feelings—for me and evidently for a lot of your readers too.
I gain a sense of connectedness given the circumstances. It frees me from labels and preconceived notions.
This is not something I’ve ever considered a knot to be prised apart. Firstly, at 67 and still very much working full time in a job I do not love in order to pay the bills, survive and hopefully retire by 70, I have never felt defined by my work. Work has always been for me about earning income, not who I am.
Purpose is something I struggled to both define and find for many years. For some time I believed I didn’t have one. I read books on the subject, but still no light went on for me. Of course, with age comes at least a modicum of wisdom and the realisation that purpose does not need to be something grand to impress an external world…. Actually my purpose is something very grand; it is to be the best human being I can be. My success rate varies but my purpose does not.
So, my purpose is set in my mind, however my adherence to my purpose is somewhat fluid. Some days I feel more on purpose than others. My identity is also an evolving thing. I am many things and I have hopes, when I have more time, to become many more things. I do believe we are all art in ways many and various. I look forward to exploring more of my identities and seeing which I incorporate into who I am. Like others, I definitely see how I present to the world in terms of personal style as part of my identity. I find art (self expression and authenticity) playing bigger parts in my life and yet often in smaller ways. I’m not sure I want to prise apart purpose and identity. I’m not sure they’re different threads. I may not be too surprised at some point to learn identity is a fiction and only purpose truly exists….
As I’ve written this I realise it’s years since I was asked what I do or who I am. I exist, I am – that’s all and it’s a lot.
I am reading this post on the eve of my 64th birthday. I have always worked because I had to, never really happy in what I did. Now, having my own business for the past three years, has given me the purpose and freedom I have always desired. I feel useful. I finally feel like I help people. This is not ego, just that I always knew I could do more but could not because I was a single mother and had an unstable childhood emotionally and financially. I have learned to let go and surrender to the Universe. I am so much happier to know that I am not in control but yet, I am – of my own happiness and choosing to be happy every day. I have a lot of freedom and I am still discovering who I am and what I am capable of. It is exhilarating, yet disorienting. I am a curious person by nature and now I am free to explore…where do I start? Thank you for your post. This has got me thinking, of course!