Have you ever noticed "Y" shaped tree branches
laying about your yard or on your travels about town? I don't find them every day or even every week, but when I do come across a "Y" stick I like to pause for a minute and ask myself a "why" question. Sometimes the question will relate to something happening in the moment, such "why is the ice on the lake making popping sounds right now?" Other times, a more esoteric or personal question will emerge. My most recent "Y" stick encounter this past week prompted me to ponder how I am currently defining myself. Generally, when someone asks what it is that I do my answer, for the last two years, has been that I am a retired teacher. Although this is true, it just doesn't seem to feel like a good fit lately. The question is, why? As I walked and thought, I realized that my discontent seemed to center around the word "retired," it just seemed too limiting. I have found many new interests and ways to contribute to my community since I stopped working in the schools, but how do you categorize a group of varied interests and experiences? And, why do I feel the need to? Shortly after finding the aforementioned "Y" stick, I read an article that resonated with me.
It was a Q&A, in a recent AARP Bulletin, with filmmaker and author Dan Buettner titled, They Don't Have a Word for Retirement. Dan has done a great deal of research into areas of the world that he refers to as "blue zones". These areas have the lowest rate of middle-age mortality or the highest concentration of centenarians. Some of the characteristics of "blue zones" are that the folks that live there predominately eat a plant-based diet and they don't have a lot of mechanized conveniences, which means that they are moving around a great deal and walking just about everywhere. But, most interesting to me were the linguistic differences, particularly in Japan. According to Buettner, in Okinawa they do not actually have a word for "retirement". Instead, they talk about ikigai, which means "why I wake up in the morning." So, in Okinawa, if there is no word for "retirement" then you certainly cannot be retired. You are simply continuing to work on things that make you want to wake up in the morning, no further explanation or categorization is necessary. How simple and lovely! WHY are we so label driven? I think in the new year I will explore responding to the question, "so what is it that you do Jean?" with "I'm am working on the things I love and believe in".
I absolutely love finding "Y"sticks! In fact it was a "Y" stick that launched the idea for this blog over a year ago. When I found that particular "Y" stick, all those months ago, my question was "why am I afraid of flexing my writing muscle?" The answer to this question would prove elusive enough that I would turn to the I10 Paradigm that I designed many years ago (see January, 25, 2019 for an overview of the Paradigm). Through engagement with the Paradigm, I was able to formulate a plan that would hopefully help me over my "fear" hump, which including making a commitment to starting a weekly blog. When I first started fifty-two weeks ago, I began writing with a bit of trepidation and no idea of whether or not I would be able to stick to my plan of committing to this experiment for a whole year. As I reflect on these past months, I realize that I have enjoyed the challenge and experience more than I ever could have imagined. Of course, just as I have reached a level of comfort and confidence in what I am doing Wix has decided to eliminate their old, my current, blog format. WHHHHHHHHY!?! I could simply say that this is a sign to hang up my "pen" and call it quits, but I now find that writing this blog has become a bit of my ikigai and I am already thinking of several refinements and new ideas. Hopefully, the learning curve of the new format will not be too daunting and maybe I will even learn a few new tricks. To those of you who have joined me on this journey, thank you. May you have a New Year full of pursuing your own ikigai and may you find many "Y" sticks.