Do What You Have to Do: Thoughts on Moving to Another Country, Nearing Retirement and Advice to Younger Generations

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Article 14 of 15 in Series: Perspectives on Work, Worth and Faith


John and April left comfortable jobs, a home that they built from the ground up and made a new life in another country. While their names have been changed for privacy, their thoughts have not and their story reminds me of many others like them. 

CHRIS-ANN: You’ve both been working for close to 40 years and living in Canada for over a decade, how has your perspective of work changed over this time? 

JOHN: I probably look at work as a form of survival. It’s probably because the first thought you have when moving to a new country is to survive, so you grab what you can find. You do the work, get home and you forget about it. You go back the next day and you do the same thing. Before coming here, I used to look at work as developmental. Now, it’s just to pay the bills. It’s also probably the nature of the job. Maybe if I was still working the positions I’ve done in the past, I’d be more interested in keeping track with the times, but this job is not in my area of interest or expertise. I just do it and go home.

You can also feel less involved. Where we are from, you felt more involved in your work and you felt like a part of the company. Even with your first job, you’re a part of the decision-making.

APRIL:  I did better here, I think. The jobs that I’ve gotten here have been fairly good jobs and similar to those I’ve had before coming here. However, the black man here doesn’t move in the vertical direction very often; men who came here, to Canada, highly educated and just as qualified or more. 

JOHN: I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are people who’ve come to Canada and gotten jobs similar or better than those they held in their home country, but it’s few and far between. I can make a long list of the men who have not, and it’s not because they didn’t try.

APRIL: And many of these men have left Canada to go back to their country. And some will not come at all. 

JOHN: If you come to Canada and can fit into the system, great. There is a long list of women I know who have come and fit in. They decided to study here again, despite an already extensive education from their home country and went back through the system. Many of us decided that it’s not worth it.

CHRIS-ANN: So as you look towards retirement, what do you hope the next 5 to 10 years of work will look like for you both? 

APRIL: I’m looking at how I can use the skills from my work experiences over the years in my retirement years.

I met someone who said that her time in retirement has been more valuable and meaningful to her than all the years that she worked before. She retired in her early 50’s and found that she was busier in retirement than ever before, but it was activities or work that she wanted to do. I’m glad I met her because her perspective answered many of the questions I’ve had for a while.

JOHN: I’m definitely transitioning to working for myself. There’s no two ways about that. My philosophy is that I’m working until I’m dead. I don’t know about anybody else. Retirement for me is doing something you enjoy and earning something from it. That is how I see it. 

If you’re physically fit and physically able, you might as well continue doing your work if you enjoy it. The alternative to that is, if you want to travel, use your time to do that. What are you going to do with all that time, sit down, look around and deteriorate?

CHRIS-ANN: Looking back on your lives thus far, what kind of advice would you give to younger people?

APRIL: Be agile. Always be thinking of the next opportunity. At least be a planner. Think as far as you can think. Don’t be thinking that right now is all that there is. When you’re young, you should be thinking about what the next opportunity is, especially if you have hopes of doing certain things or acquiring certain things.

“Remembering that situation, one of the things I can say is that we were very aggressive. That’s what I realized: in our younger years, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were willing to take the steps.”

The thing that I like about this time for young people is that, the solutions that young people often present are always different from what I would’ve done or thought of. I realize this when I speak to younger people like yourself; you see things in a different way. I see the wisdom in them and I learned something from that.

Even with your partner: I’ve realized that how I would solve a problem is not how John would solve a problem and I thank god sometimes. He goes at things a different way.

JOHN: I take the scenic route.

APRIL: So if your partner has a different way to approach things, don’t discount it. You know what I mean? Compliment the approach. You will cover more ground and cover most of the bases if the two of you listen to each other. Then you will have something that you can both rally on.

“He said to me, “J, hard work doesn’t kill anybody.” So, whether young or old, if you have the physical and mental capacity, the work can never be too hard if you need to do it to move along.”

The other day, John asked me if I remember a decision we made when we were much younger and if I remember the steps that we took to do that. Remembering that situation, one of the things I can say is that we were very aggressive. That’s what I realized: in our younger years, we didn’t know what we were doing, but we were willing to take the steps.

JOHN: A close relative of mine would get up every morning, travel 5 miles to work, without a vehicle, and come back home. Right after I left high school, he would always say to me, “J, hard work doesn’t kill anybody.” So, whether young or old, if you have the physical and mental capacity, the work can never be too hard if you need to do it to move along. That would be my simple message to young people, do what you have to do.

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