Meaning and Purpose in Retirement

As you know, I’m back in the saddle at work, according to the terms of my phased retirement contract. When I’m off service, I feel less pressured. However, when I’m on service, I’m like a fireman, thriving on pressure. I’ve done Consultation-Liaison (C-L) Psychiatry for so many years that, when I stop to think about it, I realize I get a good deal of my sense of meaning and purpose through my job.

I sometimes tell residents and medical students that I “do it for the juice.” That means I work for the adrenaline: rushing to emergencies, making quick decisions (some of them far from perfect), teaching on the run, telling funny stories about how my work as evolved over the years.

When I spent less time on the job during the first two years of phased retirement, I felt lost. There’s no better word for it. That’s not as much of a challenge now, but meaning and purpose in retirement can be difficult for a fireman to define.

I had a blog called The Practical C-L Psychiatrist until I dropped it last year. There were a couple of reasons. One of them was the expectation that bloggers write their own Privacy Policies in response to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect. I rebelled against it.

Please read my Privacy Policy on this blog. I worked pretty hard at it. I asked a few attorneys for guidance and only one of them got back to me, humbly admitting he didn’t know anything about it really, but had a helpful suggestion nonetheless.

The other reason I dropped The Practical C-L Psychiatrist was that it was less relevant to my stage of life in that I’m not racing all over the hospital nearly as much nowadays. I don’t have as much to write about that life anymore.

But I still love to write and so I swallowed my pride, wrote the Privacy Policy and decided on making a chronicle of my transition into retirement, which is this new blog, Go Retire Psychiatry. So far, I’ve more or less just made jokes about it. I realize that’s a defense. I need to move on and confront the search for meaning and purpose in retirement.

I’ve done a lot of fun things on the job over the years. I used to have mascots for the C-L service, like the one below. You can tell that it was from some time ago. The mascots were usually inflatable animals I bought from the hospital gift shop. The residents, medical students and I gave them silly names. The trouble was that the mascots, being balloons, were always running out of gas.

Winston googling neuroscience.

And that meant that somebody had to take the mascot for a walk all the way across the hospital back to the gift shop to get a healing shot of helium—and walk all the way back. The volunteers there got a big kick out of an old geezer doctor walking the mascot. It was an exercise in humility, which I admit I often needed.

And I took group pictures of trainees and me at the end of rotations by using an app on my old iPad. It’s called CamMe. The way it worked was that I set the iPad up on a stack of books or something; then we all stood for the shot. I would hold up my hand and make a fist to start a 3-2-1 countdown, which gave you just enough time to make a big smile for the automatic group selfies. Everybody got a kick out of it.

I was so proud of those pictures I thought nothing of posting them on my blog, with nary a thought about their privacy. All of them thought they were fun.

That’s about enough on meaning and purpose for today.

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