A caged bird that finds the door open

On my last day at work, a colleague asked: "How do you feel?"

"I feel like a caged bird suddenly finding that the door has popped open," I said. "The bird just cocks its head quizzically, looking uncertainly outside."

Later that day, I told this to another friend, and his reply was: "The big wide world can be intimidating."

He should know. He must be feeling that way too when he retired a few years ago.

For most of us who have been doing paid work for a good part of our lives, the working life has done much to justify our existence and forge a sense of self-worth and security. We feel that our existence is justified when we are busy, even though it may not necessarily mean we are productive or contributing to the well-being of the world. We feel a sense of self-worth when we move up the ranks and there is power to wield and people to manage. The higher positions also give us a sense of security, as do the pay cheques that come at the end of each month.

So when one stops working, he can find the change all too dramatic. The bird in my imagination may well hesitate to walk out and prefer to stay in. It may be wondering: "Do I still know how to fly? Is it really a good idea to leave this cage where I am fed on a daily basis and put myself at the mercy of this strange and unknown world?"

One who has lost his freedom for too long may not be too eager to seek it and may not know how to enjoy it. He may, as my friend put it, just find it too "intimidating".

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