One of my favorite programs on TV right now is HBO’s “In Treatment”. It features a psychatrist and some of his patients during their sessions. This week one of the patients, Walter, was forced to resign from an executive position he had held for 35 years. He was facing a variety of issues including depression and he generally had the feeling that his life was over.
Walter described how one of his old friends had come over to lend support and offer advice. This man, when faced with similar circumstances two years prior, had found an outlet for his creativity, time and energy in photography. He told Walter that the key to a successful retirement was to find a hobby one could be passionate about.
We are used to wrapping up our entire identity in our careers and nowadays it is a matter of perverse pride to stay “busy busy busy”. Some times it seems the only way we can validate ourselves is through our productive activities. Imagine what a shock it is to get up in the morning and find out we have no schedule for the day, whatsoever.
Although in theory this may sound like heaven, trust me. It is not. It is essential for our very mental health that we find “something to do” – otherwise a negative sense of worth, depression and, at the very least, boredom descend on us.
Genealogy can be a very good occupation for many of us under these circumstances. Its raw materials have been waiting for us all of our life. Most of us have stored information and anecdotes in our minds and hearts, and have drawers and boxes full of old photos and documents, buttons and medals. As you get organized and actually start the work, there is so much to learn and prepare. As you get going with it, one discovery will follow the other, bringing surprise, intrigue and interest to your day. You will find you are building an entire new network of family members and friends, all of which share in your new interest. You will even be inspired to travel to different places, giving your vacations another slant.
And, speaking of self-worth, think of what you will be leaving behind for your children and grandchildren. They may not appreciate it now – they may even make fun of you and your new hobby – but some day their turn to be interested in roots and family will inevitably come and it will be all there for them, ready to be added to, courtesy of … YOU.