Introverts and extroverts need different things. Introverts need alone time to reenergize, to reflect, to be in a space that allows for perspective and understanding of the world around them. Extroverts need to be with people, they gain energy from others, and they find perspective and understanding by interacting with those around them. The common tale, that extroverts are outgoing and introverts are shy is not always true, I know many outgoing introverts and many shy extroverts. The key to understand this different is where the energy comes from, the introverts needs alone time to be at their source, the extrovert needs to be in a social setting to find their peace.
This week I had a good friend inquire, with some concern, whether I would ever be able to retire, given how high energy I am. This friend is 70 years old and he knows the body and the mind can only go so long and will eventually need a break. His concern for me is that when my body and mind need a break, retirement age, I will not be able to accept the slower life and thus find myself in a deep funk. I have given this much thought and prayer. With eight years to go before I retire I am very conscious that a time is coming to my life when I will need to accept a change of pace and live with more alone and quiet time. I am already trying to imagine this.
I know I can and likely will remain working in a part-time way when I retire. I will be 61, soon to be 62, when I retire. Many of my less energetic colleagues work full-time well beyond their 62nd year. In some sense I feel part of the reason I work at the pace I do is to “get it all done”, to make sure there is nothing left on the table when I retire. I want no regrets, no feelings of guilt that I did not do for the churches I served all that I could. That’s why I react as strongly as I do when Search Committees question whether I will give them the hours they need considering all of my other commitments. With months they are changing their story to one of concern for my working too hard. This need to prove to myself and to others that I can get it all done has driven me for years.
So getting to 35 years of service, a full pension, will satisfy me and the church that I have done all that I could and should for the church. I will still want to serve, to share my gifts with others, but I suspect some of the drive to “get it all done with away” will diminish. That’s why starting the psychological process of retirement is important now, I want to imagine what that next stage of my life will look like.
As an extrovert I will need people and social settings. But I suspect I will no longer feel the compulsion to do everything right away. I will look to part-time work where I am in the midst of others but there is time for longer and fuller conversation, where I am not thinking about what comes next, trying to get all ten of the things I put on my list that morning accomplished, that I am fully and totally focused on the now, not the next.
I will not need to do anything big or grand, that part of me died ten years ago, nor will the challenge have to be filled with significant change. This next stage will include duties that make use of my social nature, my ability to bring people together, and it will include coffee and conversation. I will need to walk, either to this part-time job, or after the day is done. My stimulation will include people, purpose and the gifts I uniquely bring to the experience.