Who am I if I don’t work for pay?


Another year has gone. Time seems to slip away faster at my age. I have been retired for twenty years. In twenty more years, I will have lived in retirement as long as I worked. We live longer nowadays. But according to customary men’s definition, I do nothing hence I’m nobody. Men have always identified themselves with what they do for pay. So you don’t do anything for pay, you are nobody. As we live longer more years in retirement doing a lot but without pay, we will have to find a different way to identify ourselves. Definitely I am not “nobody.”

Of course, I am speaking as a male. Women seem to do better job of coping with the question of self-identity. I think it’s because they have always been engaged in things that are life-giving and caring without being paid, like birthing and feeding. Women know who they are without being paid. Here we must know the difference between a job and a vocation. We live for vocation. It’s like being an artist, who knows who he/she is without a job that pays. I go even further. I can say simply “I am Tadashi Mitsui, period.” Can’t I?

There are also a couple of things that concern me as a large number of boomers retire and live more years after.

First, Canada needs more people who pay into pension plans and health care systems to keep them going. There aren’t that many million-billionaires who can live only on investment. So most of us depend on people who are working and contributing to pension funds and health care systems. But as a society grows more affluent, birth rate usually declines. The result is less number of people who pay for our pension and health care. We need more people, immigrants and refugees, to come to Canada. Xenophobia, fear of others, is suicidal for the nation.

Secondly, we should forget the idea that the goal of medicine is just to prevent death. Of course it must prevent pain and suffering and untimely death. But we must also accept the notion that death is a part of life. I have not quite worked it out yet, but we must rethink the way we treat death as an ultimate curse. We must rather ask, “ Is this life what I want?” more often.

A Happy New Year!

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