The Great Resignation or the Great Reinvention?
“The Great Resignation:” The media love creating sensational labels in order to get more eyeballs on their stories. In any event, the statistics are compelling. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, in the USA, an average of 3.9 million people quit their jobs every month during 2021.
In some areas, women are disproportionately affected and 25% cite childcare or elder care responsibilities for them leaving.
Yet I remain intensely curious. I’ve been asking myself “Why are these trends occurring?”
Because the why is way more important to me, and to those making the move.
I’ve concluded that the individuals making these moves have a desire to rekindle their purpose in life. The pandemic ignited the biggest shift in work and life that most of us have ever known. And that shift has inspired some self-examination.
Many of the elders I interviewed in my documentary film, “Lives Well Lived,” had experienced World War II and some even the Great Depression. They made it through these life-changing events by renewing or drawing on their purpose, by having support networks, by being positive, and by flexing their muscle of resilience.
And the same is happening for many individuals in our society right now, including me.
Last month, I joined both the Great Resignation and the Great Reinvention. After a thirty-year university career teaching photography, I decided to retire in December. My colleagues asked me, “Why are you retiring so young when you are at the top of your game?" I realized that I had fulfilled my teaching career and decided to look through a different creative lens: filmmaking. I am lucky enough to be able to walk away and reinvent myself at 56 years old.
I have choices about what my sense of purpose will be. I believe that no matter which decade of our life we’re in, we all need to find our sense of purpose, the drive that keeps us going, that feeds our curiosity. I also believe that our sense of purpose can change over time depending on our life circumstances. For me, creating a film about older adults changed mine.
For my dad, a practicing geriatric physician, having and surviving two strokes reinvigorated his sense of purpose. The first stroke, when he was in his 40s, required very experimental brain surgery. It took him a year to recuperate, but he resumed working as soon as he could. His second stroke, at 69, left him with one side of his body weakened enough to require being mostly in a wheelchair but able to walk short distances with a walker. He lost the ability to do many of the things he loved, such as play guitar, do archery, etc. The one thing he could still do well, however, was practice medicine.
Today, at almost 80, my dad continues his medical practice, despite even greater challenges. He has had Covid-19 twice, and yet his perseverance has made him a role model for his patients. When I asked him why he continues treating patients, he explained that he does so out of his sense of purpose, his passion, and the desire to be productive.
Many times in life, we just go on day to day, so busy with our lives that we don’t have that moment to pause and really think about what we are doing, what we are grateful for, and what feeds our soul. The pandemic has collectively slowed many of us down and given us a moment to pause and reevaluate our lives.
In a few years, we will see this period was definitely not the Great Resignation, but indeed the Great Reinvention. The Great Rekindling of Purpose. It will become the time when we were able to really look at our lives and find our true sense of purpose and happiness in the world.
Will you use this brief moment in time to redefine your life and your sense of purpose? If and when you do, you may find that committing to that purpose is a vital ingredient of a life well-lived.
Sky Bergman is a Professor Emeritus of Photography and Video and has rekindled her own sense of purpose as the filmmaker of Lives Well Lived. She is an MEA alum and guest faculty member.