I struggled with the letter P. I wanted to make this something fun like P is for Porpoises, or P is for Parrotfish, but clearly I’m not the least big scared of those two things and really hope I see a lot of them. I am, unfortunately, worried about feeling like I’ve been sent to the ‘poorhouse’. People who are ‘out there’ cruising on their boats say that it’s all worth it, and that they love living on less money and living a simpler lifestyle. I truly hope they are right and that I love it, too, because we are taking a serious decrease in income in order to make this happen. I’m also giving up a career that will be difficult to return to in the same way if I ever need to start practicing again.
Even though we feel pretty old, and are anxious to get going before true old age hits us, Mike and I are actually young to be ‘retiring’. We are not independently wealthy. It’s probable that this will not be a permanent retirement, but only a hiatus from the daily grind and level of responsibilities that make us both just, well, tired. As the day when we stop bringing money in through work gets closer and closer I think more and more about how we’re going to be living on less than 1/4 of what we live on now. I try to imagine it, but when I do, my imagination gets the better of me. Will I never go to Starbucks again? Will I forgo Costco? Perhaps this is what is currently being referred to as a ‘First world Problem’, but I don’t care. We have worked very hard to be where we are in life financially. It’s something I continually have to talk myself off the ledge about. “It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay. Stop worrying. It’ll be okay.”
If we were in our ’30’s, or even our ’40’s, it would be easier to wrap my head around taking a few years off from a career. We would still have many years of earning potential left and still be young when we returned. At this point, however, I worry that coming back to work might be hard for us in terms of finding jobs, mostly due to ageism in the workplace. Mike feels confident that he can get a good job, and he does have excellent skills as a programmer/developer, as well as good job contacts.
But I have absolutely no idea at all what kind of employer would look at hiring me, someone who has been in private practice for most of her career. What do you do next when you’ve had a career as a psychotherapist? Do any of those skills even transfer to anything else? It takes a long time to build a practice. I have given up all my insurance contracts, something that fills me with an odd combination of joy and dread. (No, I would not be able to get those back. The networks are all closed.) Will I even want to continue to practice if and when we come home? And if not, then how will I make money? I’ve worked since I was 16. I don’t yet know how to not make money. It makes me feel ‘poor’ to even think about it. And yet…the freedom…
In terms of what keeps people our age at the dock until they are too old to go, I’m betting this is the number one fear. It would be so easy to convince myself that if we just stayed put another couple of years, we’d be financially so much better off. But of course, we could also be dead. There’s that. And I’m pretty sure Mike would die of pure misery.
Perhaps this anxiety is more about my own identity in the world than it is about being in the ‘poorhouse’. Actually, as I write this I get a little excited to see what’s next. There is a very fine line between anxiety and excitement. And sometimes where you are on that line is dependent on how you look at things. That’s where psychotherapy can really help. It teaches you to look at things from another perspective. If I focus on the money, I’m going to be very anxious. But when I focus on the freedom, that’s where the joy is.
What’s the next thing I will do, that I can’t do as long as I continue the job I have? Looking at it that way, being “poor” might be just the right thing.
Just joined us for the A to Z challenge? Want to know more than you ever thought you wanted to know about Anxiety? Start with the letter A, here.