For many people, becoming a silverpreneur is a better option than conventional retirement.
The search to explore our gifts, discover our purpose and leave a legacy begins to bear fruit in midlife and continues beyond. Why stop now?
I have a confession to make.
I have already enjoyed 20 years of ‘retirement.’
I’m not speaking of a comfortable pension fund, plentiful free time and months of travelling to all the places I haven’t yet been.
I’m speaking of retirement from a previous strong identity as a professional career woman. My ‘retirement’ included 18 years as a single mother, a 15 year deep dive into spiritual pathways and a lot of ‘keeping a hand in’ projects – including teaching meditation and qigong plus working with some coaching/mentoring clients.
Early in the process, this ‘retirement’ felt more like a trip through the underworld. I began to unravel and explore my thoughts and emotions through (never published) pieces of writing.
I thought I’d share a piece, which I hope you will enjoy. And, at the end, a short comment on my emergence as a silverpreneur!
Divorced, downsized and disillusioned. That is how I must have looked to friends, family and former colleagues in 1998 as I traded in my West London home, professional status and two vacations per year lifestyle to live as a single mother in a small, semi-detached house in a quiet corner of the ‘home counties’. The house itself was nothing special. However, it had what money can’t buy. Built on a hill, with a southwest facing back garden, I was treated to glorious sunsets. Every cloudless night provided fantastic stargazing. After living in London, where street lights obscure nature’s nightly show, I was enchanted.
Single mother. The new identity did not sit well with me. In fact the whole mother identity didn’t quite fit, although I was delighted to be one.
Giving birth to my first and only child four years previously, at the age of 38, had been quite a shock to my well-established lifestyle. I discovered a hidden world, a ‘secret club’ that has no structured organization but is known to a certain group of human beings the world over – mothers!
My ‘initiation’ to this secret club came, probably, 20 years later than it might for a woman living a tribal lifestyle. My identity as a professional, competent, successful woman was already well formed.
I was born in the decade (or two!) that preceded the ‘you can have it all’ approach. I graduated from university in 1978, the year equal opportunities legislation came into effect in the UK. Many ambitious women, like me, delayed family life in order to advance in their career or to travel or simply to enjoy their financial independence.
Young women in many cultures do their growing up by virtue of their responsibility for a dependent human being. In contrast, I did my growing into the adult world during the 1980’s by virtue of a brief case, painted nails and shoulder padded business suits, which it seems were the generational emblems of professional aspiration for young women of my day.
Naturally, a baby entering my life created an identity crisis.
Elegance yielded to exhaustion. Competence dissolved into confusion. Superiority, thankfully, was extinguished as survival considerations became pre-eminent. The briefcase was exchanged for a blue, cotton covered, plastic interior ‘changing bag’ that contained nappies and other essential items to be taken on any outing. (This was the 90’s!)
Instead of visiting the changing rooms in Next, Austin Reed and Harvey Nichols, I was sitting in the baby changing rooms of Mothercare while breast-feeding my precious baby.
As much as I tried to transfer my self-image of competence to my new role in life, I could not. There was not much about the mother identity that I could relate to. Despite the picture I may be painting, I was supremely happy and proud to become a mother. I was less happy about the expectation of others to be a certain type of mother and to create a certain type of family.
As I decamped from London to my Surrey ‘safe house’, I imagined that it would be an acceptable, temporary resting place for a couple of years. I planned to lick my wounds and bounce back to a successful encore.
Eighteen years later, I still live in the same tranquil setting, albeit the house has been extended and updated.
My encore has been very different from my original plan.
There has been no going back to a picture perfect professional lifestyle. But, there has been a deep exploration into, and sustained questioning of, identity during my spiritual journey. I have learned that mothering, as well as intimate relationships, and as well as work, is a valid spiritual path.
The spiritual richness of my ‘retirement’ has enabled me to re-enter the next stage of my life in a very different way. There is a new term that I quite like – silverpreneur. Maybe I like it because I stopped colouring my hair 10 years ago and became a natural ‘silver’.
I realise that many of my contemporaries are now retiring from a sustained professional career. Others of us, have either different inclinations or simply a different path through life.
The silverpreneur may be an emerging phenomenon. And it could be such an important contribution to a society where the function of elders has been in decay for some time.
For those who have grown both spiritually and psychologically throughout their adult years, a third age business as a silverpreneur, accompanied by attention to health, fitness and continuing development of professional and technical skills, may provide a vehicle through which their wisdom can be gifted.
If this is the shift you are being called to make, I’d love to help. Please contact me for an exploratory conversation.