May 26, 2015
Tomi’s Story
By: Diverse Elders


by Tomi Nagai-Rothe

TNR head-shoulders 2I turned 59 this year. In Japan, one celebrates “Kanreki” at 60. It means returning to the beginning – five times through the 12 year zodiac cycle. Turning 60 is associated with attaining maturity and wisdom and, paradoxically, with returning to infancy and starting the life cycle anew. You might call it a life re-set or crossroads.

60 is the age at which people in the U.S. begin thinking about “retirement,” though that term is tricky to define. My father stopped working when he was 64 and had more time for home projects, fishing and family. I think he saw retirement as his reward for decades of work. My mom was a homemaker and her life rhythms changed when my dad retired too. She and dad moved across the country, spent more time together, and had more time for joint projects.

I look at this crossroads differently than my parents. Rather than retiring from something, I’m trying to determine what I’m transitioning into. Perhaps this is Baby Boomer presumptuousness about being different than my parents’ generation, or perhaps realism about how much longer I need to earn income.

“Retirement” means gearing down so that I can focus on what’s most important. I don’t feel called (or able) to keep up the demands of a full-time consulting and training career. However, social change and service informed by faith has been a cornerstone of my life for many years and will continue to be an important feature.

Kanreki as coming to maturity means creating my own professional path. While I’ve spent 25 years in organization development as a graphic facilitator and trainer, and two years in leadership development, it feels like my time to create a practice or business that draws on all of my career experience.

I feel the call of my grand daughter (and my grandchild to come). My maternal grandmother was part of my household growing up and I remember how much she shaped who I am. Being close to my grandkids is returning to the beginning for me, as is being involved with my grown daughter and son as they grow their own families.

My crossroads is where work, family, service, and full-time vs. part-time income earning converge. The question is what the path will look like, and what will the relationship be between the elements? For now I’m holding this question and paying close attention to the unfolding, with faith that I will create the path as I walk.


Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never
again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

“Walker” by Antonio Machado, from
Border of a Dream: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado,
edited and translated from the Spanish by Willis Barnstone.
© Copper Canyon Press, 2003.