The traditional distinction drawn between work and retirement begins to break down for the men and women who choose the third option. Their work often becomes their avocation and their hobby becomes that for which they are paid. At a conference on work and play that the two of us hosted almost thirty years ago, we invented the word “plork” to describe the full integration of work and play. Several of the men and women we coach have taken this path. They have left behind their administrative duties and settled into a life of “plork.” They begin the transition to Generativity Three and Four.
Unfortunately, for some who have chosen this third option while still in their 50’s and 60’s, there are societal pressures to move back to a “real job.” Many of our younger “third-option” colleagues indicate during coaching sessions that they feel guilty about not going to work each day while moving toward Generativity Three or Four projects. They provide volunteer services in their community that isn’t “really work.” One of our coaching clients, Brad, spends much of his time serving as a docent and board member at a local museum. He has been wrestling with several fundamental doubts during our coaching sessions. He recently commented:
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I always seem to be the only man at the museum who is still able to work. All the other docents and board members are much older than I am and most are women. Why am I hanging around the museum instead of being a responsible breadwinner? I know that this is irrational. I still work very hard, but it is now about things that I care about at the museum. And I really enjoy my work for the first time in many years. I have more control over my time. I can work at home, doing museum-related research on my computer. I may become involved in a wide variety of other interesting civic projects. However, something is wrong. I seem to be out of sync with the people around me. It’s the wrong time or the wrong place.