I drink organic herbal tea, red wine, I’m a coffee snob and I read books like they’re oxygen. My idea of an amazing night is inhaling a fantastic novel, a glass of Cabernet, and a roaring fire in the fireplace (that’s right people – it gets crazy up in here).
So it’s no surprise that a lot of my friends look at me funny when they learn that I’m a Def Leppard fan. My older brother turned me on to several of the great 80’s bands; Guns and Roses, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and Quiet Riot to name a few (and if you disagree with what I consider “great”, just, seriously, no).
A couple of summers ago, I went to see a Def Leppard and Poison concert with my husband and some friends of ours. Yes, Def Leppard is much older, and so are we (the crowd is made up of the same fan base it’s always been, except that we now have 401K’s and can’t believe we’re staying up this late), but man, they still sound great. And so do a lot of these musicians who are still doing what they love to do after all these years. Paul McCartney is 72 and on an international tour right now. Mick Jagger is 71 and is still touring and producing records. Jimmy Buffett is 67 years old, still touring every year, producing his 28th album last year .
On average, most Americans retire at age 62 at the latest, if they are able. So why aren’t these guys slowing down or thinking about retiring? They don’t even speak of it. And it’s not because two of them are British (in England the average age of retirement is 64). I understand that their fans are fiercely loyal, and their record labels are happy they’re still making music, but for them, and thousands of folks like them, it’s about a lot more than fame and fortune.
I started thinking about this recently when I saw that tickets were going on sale for a James Taylor concert here in Nashville in November. James Taylor is 66 years old. Why doesn’t he just retire and relax? Get a sail boat or golf? I think that the answer is simply – he can’t. Not that he couldn’t, but he wouldn’t. I think that anyone who is truly doing the work they were sent here to do, can’t fathom the idea of doing something else. It’s not just what they do, it’s who they ARE. For those of us who have a typical career, it’s what we do. When someone asks you what you “do”, you say, “I’m an accountant”, or, “I’m a dentist”. But if someone asks you who you ARE, how do you answer that? Tougher question, isn’t it? Now what about James Taylor? What does he DO? He’s a musician. Who IS he? He’s a musician.
I completely understand that not all of us are blessed with that kind of talent, nor are we always that lucky, but in my gut, I really feel like we are all sent here to do something specific. And we each have a different something. I think we know what it is when we’re kids, and it gets pushed further and further down, or to the side, in favor of more “practical” life choices. I have a really hard time believing that so many of us are “called” to sit in beige-gray-taupe-brownish-tan colored cubicles for 50 hours a week, ready to stab ourselves in the temple with our letter openers. I am not such a “dreamer” that I don’t see the practicality of having to have a job and pay the mortgage. But, what have we surrendered in favor of that money? WHO are we? Do we have a calling or purpose that nags at us? Something we never should have buried or let go of? Something you would do for free because you can’t NOT do it? And should we pursue it, even if it’s just on the side, for our own sanity (I mean it about that letter opener, I know I’m not the only one)? Would it make a difference in our perspective? Maybe the 9 to 5 would be a little more tolerable? Or maybe, we wouldn’t change the world, but we would brighten the world of those around us, maybe just our circle of friends, or our immediate families?
I wish I had concrete examples, suggestions, a how-to list, a seminar, or a book about “100 Great Careers That Will Keep You From Stabbing Yourself in Your Cubicle”. I don’t. But I would love to hear from you so we can get a discussion started. Is there anything you don’t do but feel like you were MEANT to do? What has kept you from pursuing it?