Post re­tire­ment con­fu­sions, iden­tity crises, and de­pres­sion

All of that time for gar­den­ing, cy­cling, cir­cum­am­bu­lat­ing, and pros­trat­ing may not be enough

Business Bhutan - - Opinion - Rabi C Da­hal

We usu­ally as­so­ciate grief with death but we can grieve many life changes, like when a home burns down, or when we lose a job, or a fam­ily mem­ber, even a pet. We can also grieve when we re­tire. The loss of work iden­tity is huge.

I have lost my job after 12 years of em­ploy­ment. In , the same month, I lost my pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther. Soon after I re­signed, the com­pany I worked for pro­moted and placed an ex­ist­ing staff in my place. I kept think­ing my suc­ces­sor would need to call me with ques­tions that, of course, only I would know the an­swer to. But she never called. The com­pany seems to have op­er­ated just fine with­out me. It turns out I was not in­dis­pens­able. Even out­side of work it seemed I wasn’t very im­por­tant any­more now that I didn’t have a job.

Although it wasn’t a re­tire­ment, I have gone through a painful pe­riod. Some 40 days be­tween I lost my job, and found an­other a new one seemed like ages. I know the pain. And can I feel for the civil ser­vants, dashos, pri­vate em­ploy­ees, and politi­cians, how they may feel when they sud­denly lose their iden­tity, their patang and the kab­ney.

You re­tire or re­sign from a job and sud­denly : You you have lost lose your iden­tity, who are you are. ? You have all this free time, time with no com­mit­ments, some­thing you waited for all your work­ing life, but you are not happy; your head is run­ning in cir­cles, anx­i­ety run amuck, never end­ing ques­tions with no an­swers; and you do lit­tle all day, ev­ery day, bored, lazy, and you hate be­ing like this.

Of­ten we don’t even re­al­ize how much of our­selves is tied up with our work sta­tus but life re­volves around work. Re­la­tion­ships – we think co­work­ers are real friends – of­ten re­volve around work too. My res­ig­na­tion from the job, which I loved most, was a life-chang­ing tran­si­tion pe­riod. No job. No sta­tus. No iden­tity. No friends. No SMS. No so­cial me­dia likes. No com­ments. No money. No cof­fee. No out­ing.

When you don’t have a job, free­dom doesn’t feel so good any more. You have a job to­day and you don’t think of re­tire­ment and sud­denly you don’t have to go to the of­fice to­mor­row. Ev­ery­thing feels so mun­dane and you are bored, de­pressed, and anx­ious. No­body will seek your help be­cause you are not in power and po­si­tion; no­body in­vites you for a lunch or a launch be­cause you are no more saleable; no­body knows that you ex­ist ex­cept your rel­a­tives from whom you have bor­rowed money. They want their money back, at the ear­li­est, be­fore you fin­ish up the lit­tle sav­ing you have had and the ben­e­fits you have re­ceived from your em­ployer.

Re­search says that peo­ple who have a very strong iden­tity that is linked with their ca­reer – once their ca­reer is over – it can lead to de­pres­sion and can even lead to thoughts of sui­cide and sui­ci­dal be­hav­iour. This is par­tic­u­larly ap­pli­ca­ble to our young Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment who have started their ca­reer from the Par­lia­ment. Same with those MPs ob­sessed with the ti­tle of Dasho and en­ti­tle­ments. Many older work­ers look for­ward to fi­nally be­ing able to fo­cus on the things that give them great­est plea­sure – free­dom from the work. Yet, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Lon­don-based In­sti­tute of Eco­nomic Af­fairs, the like­li­hood that some­one will suf­fer from clin­i­cal de­pres­sion ac­tu­ally goes up by about 40 per­cent after re­tir­ing.

Forty-four years after the es­tab­lish­ment of Royal Civil Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (Depart­ment of Man­power in 1973, that be­came RCSC in 1982), the Com­mis­sion has fi­nally re­alised that many of its em­ploy­ees are ill- pre­pared to deal with fi­nan­cial, psy­cho­log­i­cal and emo­tional chal­lenges that ac­com­pany sep­a­ra­tion from the civil ser­vices. The com­mis­sion has thus started Re­tire­ment Plan­ning Scheme – one of the ac­tiv­i­ties un­der the civil ser­vice well­be­ing pro­gramme, one of the five re­forms cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken un­der the cur­rent Com­mis­sion. It pre­pares the civil ser­vants for life after re­tire­ment by set­ting their re­tire­ment goals and ob­jec­tives and stim­u­lat­ing a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude to­wards re­tire­ment. The re­tire­ment plan­ning is an ini­tia­tive to help civil ser­vants plan their years for a bet­ter fu­ture. It is aimed at pre­par­ing civil ser­vants – men­tally and fi­nan­cially – for a bet­ter life after su­per­an­nu­a­tion. It is a pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive that the RCSC is un­der­tak­ing. But max­i­mum of work­ing peo­ple are out­side of the civil ser­vice. They too are ag­ing and they too are ill-pre­pared.

The RCSC will im­ple­ment the project ti­tled Civil Ser­vice Re­forms for Ex­cel­lence in Public Ser­vice De­liv­ery from July 1, 2017. That’s for the just hand­ful of re­tir­ing Bhutanese civil ser­vants. What hap­pens to those work­ing for the pri­vate sec­tor, CSOs and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions? Who would take care of them and their psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing?

The well-known phe­nom­ena of com­par­a­tive loss of iden­tity fol­low­ing re­tire­ment or loss of po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion are so­cial ques­tions of huge mag­ni­tude es­pe­cially to Bhutan where hi­er­ar­chi­cal sys­tem is pre­dom­i­nant. Where we iden­tify the rank of an of­fi­cial with the colour of kab­ney they wear. You may be Dasho or Ly­onpo to­day, and you are no­body to­mor­row. Peo­ple who would bow down to their toes to­day would ig­nore your pres­ence to­mor­row. How would you over­come such sit­u­a­tions?

Bhutanese so­ci­ety is see­ing a sea of change. With it fil­ial piety of Bhutanese cul­tural ex­pec­ta­tions that adult chil­dren should care for and sup­port their ag­ing par­ents is di­min­ish­ing. To­day, re­tir­ing, ag­ing par­ents can’t ex­pect too much from their chil­dren. Blame the tech­nol­ogy that con­nects the world but dis­con­nects you with your fam­ily. And partly blame the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, which is more or less based on the west­ern ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, the alien­ation has started be­tween the ag­ing par­ents and their west­ern ed­u­cated chil­dren.

Last year Bhutan con­se­crated His Majesty The King’s Tshamkha Project – a re­treat cen­tre for the el­derly in Wang Sisina. His mMajesty has com­manded that sev­eral re­treat cen­tres will be built for needy se­nior cit­i­zens in var­i­ous parts of the King­dom. This is the most en­light­ened move from the throne. Such cen­tres should not only ac­com­mo­date re­tir­ing civil ser­vants but all the needy se­nior ci­ti­zen of the coun­try.

In large part, that’s be­cause work, whether we re­al­ize it or not, pro­vide many of the in­gre­di­ents that fuel hap­pi­ness, in­clud­ing so­cial con­nec­tions, a steady rou­tine and a sense of pur­pose, I pray that all the re­treat cen­tres be equipped with coun­selling fa­cil­i­ties for the newly re­tired.

And the bot­tom line is re­tire­ment should be a time to en­joy the fruits of your hard work. How­ever, hap­pi­ness can be elu­sive un­less you have a plan to keep your­self oc­cu­pied men­tally, phys­i­cally and so­cially. Re­tire­ment is not all of that time for gar­den­ing, cy­cling, cir­cum­am­bu­lat­ing, and pros­trat­ing. It is more than that and prepa­ra­tion should start to­day.

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