As bracket time rolls around, aka MARCH MADNESS, or the NCAA Basketball tournament, there’s a lot of talk about the ‘bubble’– teams that might be eligible for the tourney’s brackets but need a crucial win or an opponent’s loss to put them in contention to go to the Big Dance. There are plenty of bubbles in life; events where some outside influences push you one way or another on a path, for good or for bad. Sometimes you are ‘on the bubble’– on the cusp of just getting a promotion or assignment but for the want of a few circumstances over which you have little control.
Sometimes though, you’re IN the bubble–being protected from external events or circumstances, and even are oblivious to everything going on outside your little world. I use the example of the college years as being bubble-like, particularly if you live on campus. Your world, such as it is, is contained to the confines and events of the school’s calendar, activities, and social life. Even the bigger news happenings of the larger world’s politics and environment have a diminished impact on you while you’re in the bubble of college life. For myself, I’ll never forget my first assignment after college, living in Texas, and being horrified by the news of daily violence and killings! I really had no exposure to anything like that (with no television of my own) and little inclination to seek out those type of current events while I was a student. It definitely was an abrupt reentry into the “real world” and the impression of that transition resonates with me today.
Another common period of a bubble-like existence is when a new baby joins the family. There is joy and intense focus on the needs of the baby, and certainly in the case of first-time parents, their world-view shifts. For some, it is a case of seeing the world with new eyes, but for many in the first weeks and months of a baby’s life, it is a honing in on or concentration on the immediate world, with respect to its newest member, and their focus narrows.
Maybe it’s human nature, but we seem to like and adapt well to being in a bubble, not purposely exposing ourselves to things, ideas, and situations which would change the status quo. Even if we know it’s coming we avoid the opportunities to safely explore what life is like outside our known comfort zone. This is exceedingly problematic when it comes to the transition to retirement. Where one could take the time and some thought to explore life outside the work bubble before actually retiring, many do not. Some reply, “I’ll deal with it when I get there.” Others say, “I’m so busy now I have no time to even think about what retirement is going to look like!” For many high-functioning and executive level folks, even alluding to a life after work is a concession to a connotation of old age and a ‘slowing down’ mentality. Most of those same individuals, being logical and in control, have set up their financial life choices wisely, to be fully prepared for the change in their personal economies after work ends. But even with this awareness, many will not explore the social or even status change that readily occurs when their career has ended.
I think it’s fair to say that we are psychologically wired to avoid discomfort and maybe even uncertainty, especially when it comes to our future. Given a choice, many would not want to know the specifics of their future life, even if it could be produced in a magic, crystal ball. But specifically, in leaving this bubble-like environment of full-time career and employment behind, it is more beneficial to your mind and health to start looking ahead and thinking about life beyond the bubble. What will your days look like? Who will you spend time with? What is your heart’s desire in the next chapter of your life? These are a few simple questions to make a start at life outside the bubble.