Monday, July 15, 2013


Claude Nougat 

Everyone dreams of a happy retirement. You imagine doing everything you've always wanted to do and never had the time for. That's the way it was for me. Then I experienced a bad reality check. I'd like to share it with you so that the same doesn't happen to you... 
There are several things people will tell you that you should do when you retire, chief among them:

 1. Decompress, relax, go on a trip.

Yes, I did that.  
Total disaster. We drove around Spain, went to Barcelona, expecting the best. Sorry, folks, Barcelona is not my cup of tea, no doubt a matter of taste. I was happy to be back home, that says it all. 

Barcelona seen from Parc Güell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I immediately embarked on the second step everyone recommended:

2. Do something with your life. Pursue your dream whether it is art, a college degree or charity work, it doesn't matter as long as it fills your life.

I thought I had the answer to that one. I was going to be an artist. My mother, a professional portraitist, had taught me all I needed to know. Over time, I had developed a true love for painting - a love that had been thwarted by all the years I had had to work for a living.

Surprise, surprise. Nothing turned out as planned. Yet I tried my best: I spent hours in front of my canvas painting like mad and produced over 5 years some 300 paintings. I participated in 15 collective shows and even organized two personals.

Then I looked around and realized that my paintings were competing with this kind of art, for example Jean-Michel Basquiat's trumpet:

Look at what I paint:

Get the idea? How can I compete? No way. Having spent a lifetime out of the contemporary art scene, I had obviously lost touch.

You've guessed it, I stopped painting. That's when I wrote my boomer novel A Hook in the Sky - not just as a kind of therapy for myself. It was that too but I felt I had something important to say to my fellow baby boomers who were facing retirement. 

The lesson I learned the hard way is this: you can have a particular talent but it may not be enough. You have to put in the balance your whole life: what sustained you in the career you chose, what causes inspired you? The main character in A Hook was involved in humanitarian aid as a young man and had really loved his work until successive promotions kicked him upstairs in a managerial position. 
For him, the solution was to move back to the kind of work that had fulfilled him when he had started out: humanitarian aid.

What is your experience of retirement? What do you expect to do once you retire? Please share, I'd love to hear what you think works for you!

Born in Brussels, brought up on three continents (Europe, Africa, America), Claude Nougat graduated from Columbia University with a Master's in economics.  In her busy working life, she followed in Jack Londons footsteps and dabbled at a wide variety jobs from banking to publishing, journalism, marketing and college teaching until she joined the United Nations (FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome), staying there 25 years working first as a project expert and ending her career as Director for Europe and Central Asia.
While working, she found time to write. Three of her books were traditionally published, two in Italian, one in English. Since she retired, Claude has published 6 books available on Amazon as ebooks and paperbacks: 4 novels ( A Hook in the Sky and 3 books in a New Adult series, The Phoenix Heritage) and two collections of short stories (the most recent: Twisted, Four Tales of Love and Hate). Also a selection of her poems are included in Freeze Frame, a poetry anthology edited by British poet Oscar Sparrow (publisher Gallo Romano, 2012 - available on Amazon). 
Claude is the moderator of a fast growing Group on Goodreads discussing a new genre aimed at boomers: Boomer lit. She set up the Group's Facebook page at and Twitter account (@BoomerLit). Her latest novel, A Hook in the Sky, is a prime example of Boomer lit.
Claude's painting career has so far consisted in 14 group shows and two one-man shows in Paris and Rome; she is a member of the Artistes Indépendants in Paris.
Claude maintains an opinion blog (20,000 pageviews/month) and is also active in social media, including Twitter Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
She is married to a Sicilian and lives in Rome.


Caroline said...

Wow, Claudia, I'm impressed! And for what it's worth, I love your art, or at least the example I saw here. Congrats on the books pubbed. Sounds as if you're on the right track.

Courtney Pierce said...

I can completely relate to Claude's journey. Thank you for your candid words! When I made that life change to become a writer, I found myself approaching everything I did with the ambition and zeal of my former corporate executive persona: be the best, change an industry in chaos, crush the competition, and seize every opportunity to be successful...all over again. It's in my blood. And I've learned to give into it. When we retire, we can never fail if we keep engaged and inspired. That's why boomers will change the definition of retirement.

Anonymous said...

Claude, I love the stories you shared here. We're still here on earth to grow and learn, so I imagine whatever we choose to do will bring some surprises (learning opportunities, just like mistakes).

For the record, your artwork is WONDERFUL--I hope you're still active in that in some way?

Gail Kittleson

Liz Flaherty said...

I love your art, too, better than the one you don't feel you can compete with.

I've also loved nearly everything about retirement--including the trips. Going back to school was a disappointment, but not a bad one, and when I became a 61-year-old dropout, I found other and better ways to fill that time.


Claude Nougat said...

Caroline and Courtney, thanks so much for your nice comments! Yes, I do think our generation will change the meaning of retirement. I think of it as a second life, that's all (and it's a lot!)