Thursday, January 26, 2017

     This morning, at 4:00 a.m., after being awakened by loving snorts from a neighboring pillow, I am giving some serious thought to today’s message. A few months ago, I found a list of quotes by Socrates, so I thought I’d share a few for your perusal.

“Vous pouvez cacher aux autres une action répréhensible, mais jamais à vous-même.

“Le doute est le commencement de la sagesse.”

“Pour vous retrouver, assumez le risque de penser par soi-même.”

“Connais-toi toi-même.”

“La vraie sagesse est de savoir que vous ne savez rien.”

    Ok. Some of you may not know French. For that, I am sorry because it is a beautiful language. It is one which once I learned it, my life changed. I traveled to French-speaking countries and saw the world from a perspective I never could have imagined. I made lifelong friends who have inspired me for many years. I have read literature without having to translate, therefore, not losing significant meaning in the translation process. I have passed on this skill to thousands of high school and college students, some of whom live in French-speaking countries and others who are now teaching thousands more. To know another language is s wonderful gift, no matter what language. 

     But, alas, that is not the topic of this essay. The topic relates to the third quote which means that to find oneself, one must assume the risk of thinking for oneself. For me, this means on one level to not allow others to define you. 

     As a teacher, as much as I loved my teaching and my students, they helped define me for almost 40 years. This begs the question:  Who was I beyond the classroom. When I didn’t get to wake up eagerly anticipating my day, anxiously waiting to touch the lives of the young people in front of me, then what was I going to do, and who would I be? Believe it or not, the blessing and curse of loving what you do is figuring out how to function when you are no longer doing it. Even more importantly, for those of us whose career was our oxygen and our identity, who would we be without it?

     Now that boomers are choosing to work much longer than previous generations, they have the luxury of putting off redefining themselves for a few more years. There are many logical answers to the above question:  start a new career, volunteer, enjoy your grand-children, write a book, play a sport regularly, travel, and the list goes on. But I’m not talking about just what to do with the 24 hours in front of you everyday, I’m talking about who we are. Who are you, if you’re no longer a CEO? Who are you, if you are no longer a physician? Who are you, if you are no longer acting, singing, competing? 

     Whether you are working or not, who are you? If someone took away your career, would you be someone else? The double-edged sword to me is that the more you loved what you did, the harder it will be to replace that identity. Since my retirement 12 years ago, I have asked myself this question many times. Reinventing oneself for people like me is a requirement, not necessarily a privilege. Some days, I see it as a gift; but others, I see it as a hefty challenge. The bottom line is having the choice is a blessing. We just have to frame it that way.

     Who are you?