I don't know who I loved more this morning, Jon Stewart for once again setting the record straight, or the CBS This Morning's Gayle King for showcasing that the continuously creative Stewart is not hanging up his career, just "settling into his new rhythm." As a woman who shifted professional gears and left the traditional employment track at midlife, I'm used to being bombarded by those nagging questions asked only by those who have never chosen to pursue a self-propelled career without a guaranteed paycheck.
Them: How does it feel to be retired?
Me: Actually, it feels like I'm still working. That's because I am. I'm not retired.
Them: What do you do with all of that time since you stopped working?
Me: I'm working my butt off, thank you very much.
Them: So are you getting paid?
Me: [Silently] OMG-- would they ask me that if I were working for a bank or a burger joint?
Make these same professional shifts before 40, and you'll likely never have these questions hurled at you by your peers. In fact, you'll be heralded an entrepreneur, a creative risk-taker, or a right-brained genius who has escaped being pigeonholed in a left-brain kind of job. When word got out this month that Taylor Swift, 25, might be taking some time off following her tour, no one asked her about her thoughts on retirement, because they assumed her break would be just that-- a break. But it's likely that Jon Stewart, at 52, wasn't spared those questions. Why is it that once you hit 50, people assume you are seeking rest or the opportunity for endless games of golf?
Thankfully, Stewart made it clear during his interview with King that, while he has enjoyed frequenting the local smoothie shop, he hasn't stopped working. With respect to his past job, Stewart noted that he felt has though he had "completed it." But today, he's still far from retired. "It's not like I don't feel productive or creative, but I feel like my life is... rather than just painting with three colors, I get to get the whole thing now." Leave it to Stewart to pick the perfect analogy for post-50 shifters. Isn't having the whole palette a better option anyway? And who better to create a new and beautiful masterpiece than someone with decades of experience.
Nancy Berk, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, author, comic and entertainment analyst. The host of the showbiz podcast Whine At 9, Nancy digs a little deeper as she chats with fascinating celebrities and industry insiders. Her book College Bound and Gagged: How to Help Your Kid Get into a Great College Without Losing Your Savings, Your Relationship, or Your Mind can be seen in the feature film Admission starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd.