Preparing for Retirement: Know Who You Are

Not Pretending is proud to introduce our first Guest Author: Boyd Lemon.

Boyd Lemon is the author of Retirement: A Memoir and Guide (2012), which guides readers on the path to a happy and fulfilling retirement.


Planning for Retirement: Know Who You Are

By Boyd Lemon

To live a happy and fulfilling retirement, you must discover a passion to pursue, something to do that provides a purpose for your life.  You cannot discover your passion unless you know who you are.  Most of us have heard the famous command attributed to Socrates, “Know thyself.” However, have you struggled, as I did, to understand exactly what he meant, or, like many, did you promptly forget it after the final exam in Philosophy 101? Socrates may have meant something different from the modern equivalent that I have heard most of my life: know who you are, be who you are—in question form, do you know who you are? Even the modern version of the question sounded, like much of philosophy, especially this “new age” stuff, too vague and complicated to understand. A few years ago I got it. I don’t remember how or what the circumstances were, but the answer hit—and turns out to be quite simple when you get a little more specific.

Knowing who you are essentially means knowing what, to you, is important and what unimportant, knowing what makes you feel that you are doing something worthwhile, what you like and dislike, what interests you and what does not, what you want out of life, and what makes you happy, fulfilled, competent, esteemed, sad, frustrated, angry, or inadequate. It is knowing those needs and wants and dislikes that make you a unique human being, different from anyone else.

One would think that, by the time we reach retirement age, we would know who we are. Most of us don’t. We have been accommodating other people and various situations for so long that who we really are has been buried beneath the surface of the someone else that we have been trying to be—what society, schools, employers, spouses, friends and others have demanded of us. The real, authentic person is not dead, just dormant. We must know and revive this authentic person to lead a fulfilling retirement.

I knew, but could not articulate, who I was when I was a small child, before authenticity was drummed out of me. When I watched my two-year-old grandson, there was no doubt in my mind that he knew exactly what was important to him, what he liked and disliked, what interested him and what did not, what made him happy, and so forth. Between the age of two and retirement, most of us lose that knowledge of who we are. We take on responsibilities to others and forget about our responsibility to ourselves. As a result, as we approach retirement age, many of us have no idea what we want out of life or what truly appeals to us.

The idea of experiencing life like a two-year old sees it with the maturity of one who has lived for six or seven decades is glorious beyond belief, and it is within our grasp.

For me the process of discovering the authentic me wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen quickly. It took time and effort, and that effort never ends. Part of the wonder is that we continue to learn new things about ourselves as long as we keep trying. Once we know who we are, to be fulfilled, we must love and accept ourselves for exactly who we are and not resist.


Thank you Boyd, for your contribution, and the day off!

🙂  J