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May 17, 2016 /

GratiTuesday: Moving beyond retirement into jubilación

Yesterday, as we were out running errands, I mentioned to my husband that it was the 2-year anniversary of my retirement. His response was, “Wow, really? Time has gone so fast, hasn’t it?”

Yes and no.

Although he was right that the two years went by rather swiftly, I also feel as if I’ve been living my retired life for a long time… and I’m getting pretty good at it. In fact, I don’t really feel “retired,” as if that word defines a specific post-work chapter of my life. I’m not just moving through a phase; I am fully engaged in my life. The Spanish word for retirement is jubilación, which I think is much more fitting.

Jubilacion, La Paz style

Jubilacion, La Paz style

A few days ago, I was at an event where I didn’t know many people. I thought it would be interesting to do a little experiment if when anyone asked employment-related questions. I wanted to avoid describing myself as “retired” because I’ve found that often that word can be a dead-end to a conversation. I was interested to see if a different response could generate more engaging dialog.

It didn’t take too long to find myself in the familiar, polite back-and-forth that often occurs with a stranger in a social situation.

Polite Stranger (PS): What do you do?

Me: I dabble in photography, write a bit, read, and travel whenever possible.

PS: I mean, what work do you do?

Me: Some housework, although not as much as I should, perhaps. Also, yard work.

PS: No, full-time. I mean, what do you do full-time?

Me: Oh. I guess I don’t do anything full-time. There is so many great options that it would be impossible to pick something to do full-time.

PS: Really? Tell me about some of the things you are doing.

And, then the conversation really got interesting. I don’t think it came up that I was retired until quite a bit into the discussion. I also don’t remember if PS told me what kind of work she did… it wasn’t important. I learned some interesting things about her that had nothing to do with how she spent 8-9 hours of her day. Who we are is so much more than our chosen career. And, when we are no longer wrapped up in that career, being retired is just a single data point, not a description of who we are.

I am so grateful that two years ago I had the good fortune to be able to leave the work-world behind and embrace jubilación. The word may mean the same thing, but it sure sounds more like how I feel.



Leave a Comment
  1. Keith / May 17 2016 6:25 pm

    Jubilation is a great word. I was fascinated by your conversation as you delayed the big reveal.

    • / May 18 2016 8:10 am

      It was an interesting experiment. I’m not adverse to telling people that I’m retired at all but, in certain situations, it just seems to stop the conversation.

      • Keith / May 18 2016 4:50 pm

        I try to stay in tune with my old profession to speak to issues if asked.

  2. edebock / May 17 2016 7:35 pm

    I’ve been retired almost 9 years and can hardly believe so much time has passed. The years have been both full and fulfilling. I love your response to PS and can hardly wait for the opportunity to try out your strategy! Hooray for jubilacion!

    • / May 18 2016 8:28 am

      Full and fulfilling… yes! There are so many things to do and places to visit that it’s impossible to imagine living in the 8:00 – 5:00 world again.

  3. dconnollyislandgmailcom / May 17 2016 8:10 pm

    Perhaps because I have been retired for less than a year, I LOVE saying that I am retired. I gladly fill in that term anytime I am asked what I do. However, I am inspired by your conversation with PS, so I will give your response a try the next time I am asked where I work. I will keep you posted on the response of that conversation.

    • / May 18 2016 8:36 am

      I guess it depends on the situation. This one was a setting where most attendees were business people… maybe more interested in networking than just being social. In other (maybe most) situations, I have no problem with saying that I am retired because that word supports, not stops, the conversation. I’d love to hear how it works for you in a similar setting if you try it.

  4. Peta Kaplan / May 17 2016 9:17 pm

    It’s interesting how “labels” can make us feel like we are stuck in boxes which are hard to get out. No one wants to be defined by a label!

    Jubilacion is such a nice word compared with the sound of the word retirement….

    Thanks for an interesting post!


    • / May 18 2016 9:42 am

      I guess it’s natural for our brains to categorize people (and things), but it’s also so short-sighted and limiting. From what I’ve experienced and what I’ve read on other blogs written by those enjoying jubilacion, our lives aren’t limited at all!

  5. susan@marsha'sbungalow / May 18 2016 7:34 am

    What a fun experiment. The longer I am ‘jubilated’, the less I talk about what-I-did-for-a-living with people I meet. BTW – love that classic photo at the top of the page!

    • / May 18 2016 8:40 am

      “Jubilated” I love that! I get more and more vague in conversations about what I use to do also. It just seems less relevant and interesting. What I’m doing now is much more intriguing (at least in my humble opinion).

  6. Joe / May 18 2016 9:31 am

    I will remember your experiment next time I am asked what I do. The click in the other person’s head is almost audible when I tell them that I am retired. I think we need a new R word. How about Reinventing or Rebooting?

    • / May 18 2016 9:34 am

      I’ve heard some people use Rewire, which I thought was nice. I like Reinventing and Rebooting too. I think it is telling about our society that we are often either Working or Not Working, regardless of all the other things we do and are.

  7. Kate Crimmins / May 18 2016 10:59 am

    Love the word! I am finishing a 6 week class I’m teaching at my old company. I love doing it but look forward to being done. Although it’s something I enjoy I have come to resent the schedule and time taken away from other things. I left the business work 4-1/2 years ago and it’s been such a peaceful pleasant experience. I don’t eat bonbons on the sofa or watch daytime TV (unless I’m sick). There is just so much to do outside of working. I hope I live a long time cause I have a lot I want to do or experience.

    • / May 18 2016 11:55 am

      I love to read about your life in retirement, Kate. It sounds like you’ve created a life that really works for you and contains enough variety to keep things interesting. It was a nice compliment your former company paid you, but I can understand why you’ll be happy when it’s over. There is just too much to do, even if it doesn’t require much more than cracking open a book.

      • Kate Crimmins / May 18 2016 12:16 pm

        Yes only I have to be careful because non-retirees don’t always think that reading or writing or walking is as challenging as a good day at work. They are so silly!

  8. joannesisco / May 18 2016 1:44 pm

    You’re so right … *retired* is a dead-end to conversations. Anyone who isn’t retired has no concept of what it can mean when you chose to embrace it as endless possibility.

    I liked the expression you used when we’re exchanging career information – it’s just a data point. Seriously – what do we do with that information anyway?

    Great experiment. I should start working on my own 🙂

    • / May 18 2016 5:01 pm

      It seems like you get one of two reactions when you tell a stranger that you are retired: either they want to retire too and want to know how you managed it, or they think that you no longer have anything interesting to contribute to the conversation (maybe I get the same glassy-eyed look when someone drones on and on about their work 🙂 ).

  9. Carol Ferenc / May 18 2016 1:55 pm

    Love this post! ” . . . being retired is just a single data point, not a description of who we are.” So well said, Janis. The way you handled the questions from PS was priceless. I can’t wait to borrow your technique for myself.

    • / May 18 2016 5:03 pm

      Try it! It was fun. Fortunately PS was very nice and we ended up having a terrific conversation.

      • Carol Ferenc / May 18 2016 6:34 pm

        I have a feeling that PS was probably very intrigued.

  10. MrFireStation / May 18 2016 2:16 pm

    I early retired last month (@ Age 49). I find it hard for people to quite comprehend it when I say I’m “retired”. I say it anyway because it’s fun to see them stumble with what to say next.

    • / May 18 2016 5:06 pm

      When you look “too young” to be retired, I think some people just assume what you really mean is “I got laid off” (kind of like being a “consultant”). My husband felt the same stigma when he retired. Now, with a little more grey hair, he doesn’t get the look anymore. 🙂

      • MrFireStation / May 18 2016 8:03 pm

        I think it is also harder for guys because of typical gender roles.

  11. Anabel Marsh / May 18 2016 2:17 pm

    Jubilacion! Hurrah! Thanks for that, I love it.

    • / May 18 2016 5:07 pm

      I learned that word in my Spanish class… probably one of the few new words I still remember! I guess it resonated with me.

  12. snakesinthegrass2014 / May 18 2016 5:50 pm

    You’re brave! I’m not sure I could have hung in there the way you did with his penetrating questions. I haven’t had to really answer that question much because we don’t do an awful lot of socializing, but next month we are headed out on a big trip to see family out of state. I might practice some of what you successfully did.

    • / May 18 2016 6:02 pm

      When we first retired, my husband and I would sometimes work on what we would say prior to a social function. It was mostly because, with our new, unscheduled life, we often couldn’t remember all the things we had been doing. We wanted to be able to have a good response to “what have you been up to?” even from a friend, so we spent a moment remembering all that we had done. Lame, but true!

  13. Terri Webster Schrandt / May 18 2016 5:55 pm

    What a cool word for retirement! Jubilation is SO fitting! Even for us semi-retired folks who CHOSE to do a part-time retirement gig! The word retirement does conjure up escape, but as in leaving life behind. So we can now say we are “jubilated” (like liberated)!

    • / May 18 2016 6:06 pm

      You are fully-retired… you just have made a choice to work a bit in your retirement. Jubilacion: Liberated Jubilation!

  14. daveply / May 18 2016 6:00 pm

    Interesting approach – I like it. Especially if you’re talking to someone who might consider retirement boring, instead of an excuse to broaden your interests.

    • / May 18 2016 6:17 pm

      I guess retirement isn’t for everyone – or maybe it’s just hard to fathom if one is years away. Since I observed my parent’s joyful retirement, I knew that I wanted to start saving early. Thanks for your comment!

  15. Jill Foer Hirsch / May 19 2016 9:15 am

    I have a really weird problem-I didn’t retire, I got sick and became disabled. I look rather well (if I do say so myself) so people tend not to believe me when I tell them I have a serious illness. Anyway, after 25 years of joyfully reveling in my identity as a career woman, in DC where what you do is absolutely who you are, now what? Answering the question “what do you do?” with “I’m disabled” is a buzzkill of the highest order. Like you, I need to start thinking of better ways to answer that question…

    • / May 20 2016 9:54 am

      I’m so sorry that you are not well. Just like being “retired” doesn’t define a person, being “disabled” doesn’t define one either – maybe even less so. Maybe “I’m a writer” (or, whatever you choose) would be a more compelling description and could propel the conversation. Thank you for the follow and the comment!

  16. betsysbeat / May 19 2016 12:13 pm

    I love this! I’m going to try Jubilation next time someone asks. You’re right – “retired” just doesn’t capture the fullness of this phase of life.

    • / May 20 2016 9:27 am

      If you just say “I’m retired” without following it with “and…” then sometimes the conversation stops. I’m not very good at small talk, but I’m getting better with a description of my retired life after the “and…”

  17. patwdoyle11 / May 19 2016 5:43 pm

    I loved the term jubilation the first time you mentioned it to me, and love it more now. I think next time someone asks what I do, I might say “I’m jubilated”! Although after almost 2 years of retirement, I’m getting more comfortable with that term. But I also often follow it with the litany of things I do in retirement!

    • / May 20 2016 9:30 am

      I guess to some people “retirement” is an ending, not a beginning. By describing the full life you are enjoying post-work, you are showing how full and satisfying this particular beginning really is.

  18. Leah / May 25 2016 12:47 pm

    Jubilacion is great! I have also recently tried to not use the term retired. Just yesterday, I was asked what I do for work. I answered, “nothing.” Pause… “Have you worked in the past?” Me, “Yes, mostly office work, but not anymore.” Confused look… “Why don’t you just say you’re retired?” There went that experiment!

    I quit working just over 3 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. There is no shortage of fun and interesting things to do. I learn new things every day, and I get to pick just what I really want to do (for the most part; I mean, those dishes don’t wash themselves).

    You write some great thought-provoking posts. I’m glad I stumbled onto your blog.

    • / May 25 2016 3:48 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I love that you also haven’t looked back. Although every day isn’t exciting (I’m not sure I’d even like that), it beats the heck out of going to work every day! Your blog looks like fun… I’ll happily follow also.

      • Leah / May 25 2016 5:58 pm

        There are ups and downs, but as you say, I’d rather not go through them at work.

        There’s so much more flexibility now!

  19. Shelley / May 28 2016 7:54 am

    I do like jubilacion much better than retired! Lifestyle manager works really well too, especially when I can say it with a straight face.
    This is an amazing time in our lives and I feel so fortunate to be living free of most external constraints.

    • / May 28 2016 11:22 am

      You have definitely taken advantage of the freedom retirement offers! I’ve never used “lifestyle manager” as a description. I bet that elicits some interesting questions!

  20. lisadorenfest / May 31 2016 12:22 am

    I loved that conversation. How lucky are we to be so more than our (former) jobs?

    • / May 31 2016 4:14 pm

      When I was working I sometimes had a hard time describing what I did (it was an unusual job) but now it’s so much easier… I do pretty much whatever I want.

      • lisadorenfest / Jun 2 2016 12:13 am

        Now how is that for a job description – ‘whatever I want’

  21. Marian aka The Juvenile Retiree / Feb 16 2017 7:06 am

    Donna at Retirement Reflections sent me a link to this post because I also just wrote about this topic. I am quickly approaching the 2nd anniversary of my release from the corporate shackles. Oops, I mean retirement.
    I am annoyed at how some people react to me saying that I’m retired, so I am trying a new method of generating small talk. But I’m going to try your method as well 😉

    • / Feb 16 2017 4:19 pm

      I’m happy that Donna linked you over to my blog… and therefore I have discovered yours! I think the key is to not just say, “I’m retired” and let it go at that. That type of response doesn’t give the other person much to work with. “I left the corporate world two years ago, and now I’m doing X and Y” gives them something to respond to. I wrote this post last year and I think, almost a year later, I’m getting better responding to that question… or maybe more of the people I meet are also retired so rather than asking “what do you do?” we ask “what have you been doing?” which is a much more fun question to answer!

  22. Debbie H / Feb 18 2017 11:52 pm

    This is a very interesting and timely post! After reading all the comments I am feeling better prepared for the questions and how to answer them a bit better than I have been doing lately. I like the comment that retirement isn’t an ending it’s a beginning. Thanks everyone.

    • / Feb 19 2017 3:11 pm

      We are all in this together, right? Since you are a younger retiree, you probably get more funny looks when you say that you are retired. I find that the older I get, fewer people look surprised when I tell them that I’m no longer working. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad 🙂 .

      • Debbie H / Feb 19 2017 10:59 pm

        Yes we are all in this together 🙂 I’m enjoying the surprised looks so far but still find it hard to explain why I’m not working. For some reason I like to explain things to people….


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