I have a calling card; therefore I exist

My grandson celebrated his 8th birthday last week and as always there was a fabulous birthday party in Gatineau Park.  I met lots of interesting people and would really like to keep in touch with some of them; they are doing things that interest me, know things I’d like to know more about, have ideas I’d like to explore.  How do I make sure there’s a way to contact them again?  I give them my business card and suggest we keep in touch.  My business card.  Yikes!  There’s another thing that is about to disappear, and of course that once again raises the spectre of my own potential disappearance. 

I’ve had lots of different business cards in my lifetime and they all provided a frame for knowing who I am.  Sometimes they were printed by my employer, with the place of employment taking precedence on the card and providing a range of ways to contact me.  These ones were usually white with an identifiable logo of some sort.  Then there were the more colourful and artsy ones that I had printed to support other work efforts and ideas I’d pursued over the years:  BEST (Bereskin Education Support Teams) or JAMANS (an educational consulting business that grew from my children’s names).  Yes, my name and contact info appeared on all of these cards, but more importantly they told you something about what I could do, how I could be of value to you through my work.  

So, here’s the conundrum.  As the character Hiro Nakamura said in the 2006 TV show Heroes:  “I’m different now.  I feel I’ve been given a chance to start over.  A new life, a new identity.  A new purpose”.  I don’t want to think about what business opportunities I want to support with a new post-retirement business card.  So, what do I need this card for at all?

Bratter and Dennis (in Bratter, Bernice and Dennis, Helen (2008).Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women. New York: Scribner) share the words of one of the participants in a Project Renewment group:  “Two months into retirement, a woman was asked the dreaded retirement question at the grocery store. “What do you do?” Her reply: “I used to be a stockbroker.” She couldn’t bring herself to say, “I’m retired.” It made her feel invisible. She told women in her Project Renewment group, “Unfortunately, I didn’t have the forethought to have had a card made to reveal my retirement identity.” (p. 39) 

I’m expecting to meet a lot of interesting people in the years ahead.

Many times I know that I’ll meet people that I want to stay in touch with; people that I want to pursue a passion with or just share a latte with on a sunny afternoon.  I need a card that I can give them; a new version of the old concept of calling card.  Not the new understanding of this (as in a card you can charge phone calls to) but the old meaning of it:  An engraved card bearing one’s full name. Also called visiting card. A distinguishing characteristic or behavior. (www.answers.com) .  A card that, when its pulled out of your pocket just before you throw your jeans into the laundry, will speak to you, will say: “yes, I really want to get in touch with her, glad that I had this reminder”.

So, what do I put on that retirement card?  It can’t just say Sylvia Bereskin: Retired Person.  Might as well just print “old fart” on the card if I’m going to do that.  It can’t look back at what I once was; it has to reflect who I am now.  I’m thinking of a card in some beautiful colours with my name and contact info and a few words that will remind you who I am:  dreamer, planner, doer. 

  • Did you print a post-retirement calling card?  What does it say on it?
  • Any other ideas for how to manage without a businiess card and not disappear?

7 responses to “I have a calling card; therefore I exist

  1. Actually, that would be pretty funny to put “Old Fart” where the occupation or company name used to be. Sure would be memorable.

    My husband has been retired already for 4 years before me. He has cards that say his name and “Man of Leisure”. Most people think this is pretty funny.

    You should read the Ernie Zelinsky book,” How To Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.” His cards say “Connoisseur of Life.” I was thinking of getting some made with the title of my Blog “Retirement: A Full-Time Job”. That pretty much says it all.

  2. Sylvia Bereskin

    Thanks for some really good ideas; I have a couple of months still before I have to get those cards printed up so I’m hoping some other women will pop in with their ideas too. Somewhere on it I might want it to say “the sky and beyond is the limit”

  3. Plain is good too. Remember you’ve got those pink streaks in your hair. And you might not want to give the dishwasher salesman at Sears a card that says “adventuress” when he’s having trouble getting your name and address straight.

  4. Laurie Krever

    The good news is that I never had a business card in over 32 years of teaching so not having one in retirement is no big change.
    The big change is how to answer the inevitable question, “So, what do you do?” So much of my identity is tied up with being a teacher that I still use that one at the beginning of my answer, e.g., I’m a retired teacher who still works as an occasional teacher. Then I go on to enumerate other things I do with my time like palliative care work or beading.
    When do we give ourselves permission to lead with another opening statement?

  5. I’ve always had plain cards with just my name, phone# & email, in addition to my business cards. They’re much nicer for purely social occasions anyway.

  6. I understand that it is very north american to ask, on a social occasion, so . . . what do you do . . . it is a cultural thing for us to be so bound up in our work as identity – perhaps an expanded meaning of our “work ethic.”

    So we are moving from a group (paid workers) of the priveleged or the higher social strata – to becoming members of that “other group” – those who do not have productive work and are not valued in our culture – please let me introduce you to the rest of our “group” – the permanently sick and disabled, the unemployed, those with mental health challenges, many Aboriginal people, many new immigrants and refugees.

    So, I think we will be constantly working at finding ways to keep our sense of self-worth – when those around us have lowered their sense of our worth. Interesting part of the journey.


  7. Hi
    This is about identity. And retiring is one step off the precipice – from the identity of a job to the lack of identity/value that often comes with aging in our culture. We can continue to have an identity by continuing to be productive as defined by our culture. But, many of us, sooner or later, will become “unproductive” and our society will value us less and less – may even come to define as a burden – on the ecomony, the health care system, our children.

    I’m not trying to be morbid – rather, I’m wanting to find ways to redefine myself to myself first – to not judge myself on a scale of productivity. But my second contemplation is how to hold onto my self-esteem when others view me as unproductive?

    One of my thoughts is that I need to continue to be embedded in a close community of people who values me for who I am, not what I do. I believe that that the love and value we feel for each other will continue. Since this group currently lives across Ontario, we are working at finding wyas to live in closer physical proximity to each other (we are mainly single women) to facilitate this community.


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