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Retired, with Purpose

Most Americans identify themselves first and foremost with what they do for a living. What does that mean for retirees? When your identity is no longer all about your career, what happens to your sense of self-worth? These are just a few of the questions posed at the recent NEA-Retired Regional Conference in Minneapolis, during an eye-opening presentation from W. Randolph Herman, who runs The Purpose Project at the University of Minnesota.

I was sympathetic to my fellow retired educators who spoke of times they felt less valued by others simply because they had entered this new phase of their lives. But what is most damaging, Herman said, is if we devalue ourselves because we no longer have a clear sense of purpose.

Here’s where he really challenged us to rethink some things: Who says retirement is all about the end of some-thing? Maybe it’s really about beginnings. Retirement for many people represents the most freedom we’ve ever had as adults, and therefore our best opportunity to define our purpose. We have more ability to live where we want to live, spend time with people we care for, and work on things we’re passionate about.

Only you can define what the “Good Life” means to you and determine how you’re going to live it. Those I know who are making the most of their retired years—they are the people who have a clear sense of what they want to accomplish every year, every month, every day.
Look at the retirees featured this month. Marching in pro-public school rallies, educating lawmakers, mentoring new teachers, talking to others about joining NEA—these are not pastimes, they are statements about what Retired members believe and evidence of what they are uniquely qualified to do.
NEA is acutely aware of the value of its Retired members. Never forget that. You are a part of a community that does not disassemble as its members retire; it’s a community that is exponentially stronger when its senior members are involved. Let’s go forth, with purpose!

—Barbara Matteson