Stay Active, Don’t Retire

You can have the ultimate joy in life right here, right now.

Julia Tsoi
Oct 11, 2020 · 5 min read
Animation of ikigai
Animation of ikigai
Source: by Belén Peña

used to believe retirement is a life-long goal. I used to think we work hard because we need to earn enough money for retirement at 65. Imagine when we no longer need to go to the office: then we can finally have time to enjoy life — sunbathing on a little island with a glass of chill white wine in your hand. How beautiful is that?

Therefore, when my dad retired for a few months and decided to re-join the workforce, I think there was something wrong with him. I mean — why would someone bother going back to the busy, hectic working schedule instead of chilling and relaxing at home?

I have no idea at all, and neither did he bother explaining to me. Until recently, I came across the Japanese concept ikigai, which I finally understood his motivation.

“Ikagai” means “a reason for being.” This Japanese word refers to having a direction or purpose in life, making one’s life worthwhile. An individual takes spontaneous and willing actions giving them satisfaction and a sense of meaning to life.

Source: The Green Bee

Follow Your Passion Regardless of Your Age.

In Einstein’s final years, he was developing his theories to explain all the forces in the world. Right before he passed away, he was working on a speech for the seventh anniversary of the State of Israel the day before going into the hospital.

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, who won an Oscar for his 2001 animated film Spirited Away, announced his retirement at 72. The next day, his colleagues found him back in the office and started drawing again.

Throwing back to the time during my dad’s retirement, he spent most of his time at home. He watched TV all day, taking care of his pets, listening to music while reading the newspaper.

The first week was sweet. He got all the time to do whatever he wanted to do. However, starting from week 2, he seemed bored with the repetitive activities, so he started getting out of the house for exercises. Apart from that, he tried to find anything he can do at home: fixing the cabinet, changing the light bulb, building a new bookshelf. As busy as he seemed to be, retirement was not as pleasant as we planned.

One night, when I came back home from work, he was proudly announced his new job as a consultant at the dinner table. That was the biggest smile I saw on his face after retiring. Even since then, he started working again. He leaves home early and works 8 hours a day.

We thoughts he would be exhausted, yet he is vivid and energetic each day when he gets out. Being back in the field makes him feel proud and delighted. Solving the challenges at work gives him a sense of achievement and reasons to wake up in the morning.

Don’t Retire; Adapt.

My grandpa was a soldier when he was young. Since the war has fallen, he moved back to his peaceful life as a driver. And at age 84, he presided over the Ex-Servicemen Association in Hong Kong and actively engaged in the community till 98 before he passed away.

He never retired, not even for a second. He insisted on going to the association every day, even spending 45 minutes traveling by public transport from his home with his trembling legs.

Despite his age, I always saw the sparkle whenever he talks about the club. He loved what he was doing. He enjoyed uniting all the ex-servicemen together and spreading the awareness of history to the young generation.

Both my grandpa and my dad found their ikigai. In the book of Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life, the author Hector Garcia described ikagai as ‘a reason to live’ or ‘a reason to jump out of bed in the morning.’ He also suggested that people should keep active and working to maintain the vitality of life.

I get that. It might be overwhelming to imagine yourself still working at the age of 80. In fact, it is not necessary to work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, as you did in your 30s. You can transform yourself into doing something that your body allows you to do. You are the master of yourself, so you can determine how much work you want to do.

Just like my grandpa, although he was an old man, he did what he could do for society. He was interviewed by multiple journalists, sharing stories to the children, and helping the media to capture the war’s history from memory (he was very sharp in this!).

The most important concept here is, go find something that you love, something that you believe with purpose. It can be anything that makes you smile.

Don’t Wait Till Retirement to Be Happy.

I heard people complain about their job from time to time. Working overtime, demanding boss, pretentious colleagues — all you can imagine. In the end, they would generally finish the venting with “Aw, when can I get retired?” I feel sincerely sorry for them. Because it is clear that they don’t enjoy what they are doing.

The average person lives for 78 years. We spent 28.3 years sleeping, 10.5 years in working, and more than 50% of the people hate their current job but did not do anything about it.

Illustration of how much time we have in life
Illustration of how much time we have in life
Source: Funders and Founders

Life is short, and we don’t have all day long to wait. If you don’t like your job now, do something. Come up with new ideas, talk to people, and make the leap to move on. If you cannot find your ideal job, create it with your own imagination. Never fool yourself that a lousy job is temporary, and you will need to endure until you get enough money to leave. You are a warrior, and you don’t waste time in tolerating at all.

Life always finds a way. It is okay if you feel unsatisfied with your job. It is okay to admit that the work is killing your creative soul. Therefore, I want you to get out of the box. Go define your ikigai. Look for your purpose. Find your reason. Be yourself.

You don’t have to wait for another 30 or 40 years to be happy. You can be happy right here, right now, only if you are willing to make the jump.

In Conclusion

Retirement might seems sweet at first, but it would turn sour if we sit at home all the long — I guess everyone now has a glimpse of that during the quarantine time.

To live a long and joyful life, we must work in something that we love and find our ikigai. Eventually, it would guarantee you wake up with a smile on your face.

“If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” — Marc Anthony

The Ascent

Aspire to something greater.

Julia Tsoi

Written by

Design Strategist in Tech | Ex-IBMer | Apple Developer Academy Alumni. Bird without legs and I would always fly high. https://juliatsoi.com/

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

Julia Tsoi

Written by

Design Strategist in Tech | Ex-IBMer | Apple Developer Academy Alumni. Bird without legs and I would always fly high. https://juliatsoi.com/

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

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