I’ve had a recurring dream since I retired. I dream that I am back at work. I don’t think that is too unusual. What is unusual is that, in my dream, I have still retired but decided to go back to the job. I explain it to colleagues by saying, “oh yes, I did retire but after a couple of months decided to come back and work a little more.” I don’t seem to be concerned about money or about missing my job or have any particular reason at all as to why I decided to come back to work. I get the sense that I went back to work because someone asked me to come back to work on some specific project and then I just forgot to leave.
I don’t know if going back to the job from which I retired would even be a possibility. How would that even work? I assume I’d have to give up my retirement check and then would get my regular salary until I retired from the same job for a second time, at which time I would get a recomputed retirement check based on my additional time in service. See how weird this is? I’m even compulsively contemplating the mechanics of the whole thing.
I don’t know why I have this dream or what it means. It might have something to do with my mom. As my brother points out, I am basically the same person as my mom. She received multiple pensions during her life (albeit not for the same job). She always enjoyed having a job. She kept reinventing her career, moving on to a different job that suited her skills and personality whenever the opportunity arose. I can count at least 10 different paying jobs she held from the time I was about five. Maybe part of me wonders if I should be finding a new job, now that my primary career life is finished. That interpretation doesn’t feel right to me, though. I’m reasonably certain that I’m not repressing any deep-seated need to have a job. I have a busy life, filled with satisfying and stimulating activity. I’m not bored. I don’t feel worthless. The idea of being hemmed in by other people’s expectations that I do specific tasks on a specific schedule holds absolutely no appeal.
Maybe I keep having this dream because I have an idea that, if I could go back to my job, knowing what I know now, I might do it better. I feel like I’ve learned so much about living and about how to be comfortable being myself since I retired. If I did go back to my old job, I’m not sure anyone would recognize me. I think I’d be less tense and more confident. Hopefully, I wouldn’t feel so inadequate all the time. Maybe I wouldn’t drag so much emotion with me through every task I undertook. When I left my job, I had nothing left in the tank. Exhaustion was my default emotion.
In retrospect, I think I might not have been so tired because of the work, but because of how I felt about the work and how I felt about me. Instead of simply expending the energy necessary to do necessary tasks, I expended a great deal more energy on worrying and assuming responsibilities that were not mine to assume. It is one thing to be empathetic and compassionate about other people’s feelings. It is quite another to hold oneself responsible for trying to feel the feelings for the other person or for trying to force the other person to feel something different.
In my dream, I seem to be moving through my work life with much more grace and ease than I ever experienced during my waking life. Everything seems to be clicking on all cylinders and I move comfortably from one thing to another, with little angst or indecision. There are crises in my dream, but I never feel overwhelmed or beaten. I don’t seem to mind the chaos. In fact, I feel strong and powerful. I am much more effective in my dream than I ever was in real life.
Maybe that is what drives my dream. Maybe I feel like I’d like to have a “do-over” and recraft the way I approach work, based on what I’ve learned in retirement. I’m curious, given how much I feel like I’ve grown, if I could be more effective and less stressed and make more of a difference.
I guess I’ll never know. If I am completely realistic, I honestly think it is unlikely that things would be much different if I did go back to work. It is easy to absorb life lessons and pat myself on the back for my wisdom in the relative peace of retirement. However, if I were to climb down off the retirement mountain and expose myself once more to the sticky, stressful mire that surely still exists in my former workplace, I don’t think it would take long for me to slide back into the ooze. I don’t know that people really change their hard-wired approach to life all that much. I can learn and grow, but I think my instinctive reaction to stress and emotion will probably always be to ramp up my heart instead of my head.
The next time I have that dream where I’ve gone back to work “for a little while” after retiring, I think I’ll dream myself right back into re-retiring!
Do you still have “unfinished business” that you are working out in your dreams? Please tell us about it. Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a dreamy day!