I stumbled (as usual, do I ever know where I”m going when I begin to write?) across a great saying at one of my favorite websites.  

You’re either growing or you’re dying.”  

Attributed to Heraclitus as well as Plato and Diogenes, it’s often paraphrased as “Everything flows, nothing stands still,”  or another of my personal favorites, “The only constant is change.”   So why is it that we approach the last phase  (ooooh, that has a solemn ring to it doesn’t it?)  of our lives with the  “Now I’ve got all my stuff and I know where it is so I don’t have to do anything anymore”  mentality?

Things were going along swimmingly in my life; I knew my community –  my work was familiar, gratifying and secure – most of my colleagues felt the same.  We were all comfy knowing what we knew; confident it was all we needed to know, since we had arrived, so to speak.  While I was blissfully wrapping up my career and thinking about retirement I discovered a major flaw in my assumption.  Getting past the learning curve and expecting smooth sailing was a fallacy.  Knowing the lay of the land didn’t guarantee that things would remain the same and I wouldn’t have to work at anything.  Ha!    There is no such thing as arriving.   It’s all just part of a continuing ebb and flow.  Whoa!  Who moved my cheese?

Two recent incidents pulled me even further from my smug assumptions: 

One –  I was watching Selling LA.  (Love to see how the people next door live.)   The featured real estate company had decided that rather than the traditional print ad campaign, they would use social media to market a group of upscale condominiums.   Social Media…ummm, what exactly is that?   I know what Facebook is, but I really don’t understand the relevance, and I only have a vague idea what Twitter is about, but I don’t pretend to understand why anyone would have an incessant need to comment to the world at large, every minute of their day exactly what it is that they are doing.  One could be construed as … narcissistic… ?  Well, you get my drift.   Ask.com’s explanation of social media was a helpful starting point but it  indicated clearly that I’m not relevant.   Okay…after retirement I wasn’t planning to care. 

Two – at lunch with some lady friends from my water aerobics class, when I asked for everyone’s e-mail address, only 2 of the 9 present said they used e-mail.   For someone who has computer with the morning coffee (and have done so more than twenty years,) that’s pretty darn freaky.   So if I think I”m not in touch with the unknown… how out of touch is the group just ahead of me?     

In one breath  I had tripped over not one but two seismic shifts in the known and the unknown (with respects to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.)   Here were two significant generational gaps – in both directions!  The lunch ladies had no desire to know what I knew, and the kids behind me knew a whole world of new stuff that I didn’t know.   As in the technical vernacular, what the heck does a “cloud” do?   But more importantly, I should care about these things?   Don’t start with the “I don’t want to learn anything new.”  Or worse yet, “I’m too old to learn anything new.”  Whoops, there’s that growing/dying thing.

Is relevance important?  In a word, maybe.  Depends.  

That’s essentially the conversation I had recently with a friend who is just slightly older than me, and much to my pleasure, he too remarked about how important it is to keep learning and growing.   He had also observed that his slightly older friends didn’t seem to have any interest in doing staying relevant.  Yep, we were definitely on the same page.  I’m meeting many baby boomers  in the gated retirement community where we now live, who express their dismay over  the “silent generation,”  whose take on retirement is completely different from ours – but so was their take on their previous lives.  Basically, their mantra was  “Don’t take risks, save your money, pay cash, keep your head down, hang on to your job, etc.”  So we can’t base any retirement assumptions on how they’ve gone about it.  They are a contented lot,  having paid their dues, wanting  to sit back in the clover.  Baby boomers have never sat still long enough to rest on any proverbial laurels.   I’m thinking maybe this is a good thing? 

Yes, lots of folks out there  get it, but there are lots more  who are just catching on.  My brain’s file cabinets are overflowing  and now I find  there’s more unknown unknowns.   If you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re in trouble.  But is bigger trouble coming if you aren’t willing to find out what you don’t know?  Learning doesn’t cease just because we’ve retired.  Ummm, back to that growing/dying thing.

Retirement doesn’t mean you’re dead, but it might mean you’re irrelevant.  Ouch, that hurts!  Would love to know your take on the subject. 

Next week:  Finding the best Happy Hour/Early Bird half price menus.  The Challenge Is On.