At a recent neighborhood pool party, a younger person asked me: “so, how do you like retirement?” I answered that I like it and highly recommend it. The conversation moved on before I could say more. I have since given it some thought.
For most of my life – since about age 12, actually – I have had some kind of job. I began in my father’s hardware store by fixing windows and screens, cutting and threading pipe, marking up freight and helping customers (when I got “old enough” to wait on customers). I’ve held all kinds of jobs, some very menial, some using my twenty-four years of formal education. While I was in the midst of work, juggling its demands along with kids’ school activities, their sports, church and civic engagements and graduate school, I felt at times like I was on a tread mill – or at the base of a mountain scaling a far-off peak. Retirement just seemed so far away, so remote. I saw old people who were retired and frankly I did not envy them. Many of them seemed bitter, tired, stiff and sore, and generally angry at everyone and everything. So, the thought of my own retirement was not something I gave much thought to nor seriously considered, let alone desired.
Then I met a retired couple who were older than my grandparents and rode bicycles! Over time, I met more and more old people who were quite active. Grumping around the house was not part of their experience. What I saw in them was a re-purposing, a re-organizing, of their life – not stopping. They did what they did, but on their terms. That was key. So I began to see retirement as a way for me to focus on what interests me, hobbies I may want to pursue, political engagements I may want to dive into, causes I may want to champion…and so much more. Living in a 3-gen family has added its own unique flavor to my retirement. It is not unusual for a grandchild to pop in and ask if I want to see something (a recently-learned magic trick, for example) or if I could play a game with them. I often drive them places, as I did with their mother. And I am involved in their lives in countless other ways as well. I have kept a journal throughout the pandemic to all my grandkids, just chronicling the everyday stuff of life, so that we can remember in future years what this past year was like on a day-to-day basis.
If I am asked again how I like retirement, I’ll stay that I like it and recommend it. I’ll also add some information about the kinds of things I’m engaged in. I’ll also share something about a typical day: I wake up when my eyes open. I make coffee and toast and head out to the deck where I rock in my favorite chair. I bring my binoculars because I never know what new bird I might see at my feeders. I read several newspapers online as well as a couple of devotional writings. The huge German Shepherd who guards us all is often eager to go for a walk. So, I strap on my shoes, grab her leash and head out to a variety of places. If I’m tired after lunch, I nap. I may read. Read and nap. Doesn’t matter. I don’t have to wear a suit and tie nor polish my shoes. I don’t owe anyone any spreadsheet with any numbers whatsoever. I don’t fight traffic for an hour or more every day. I never worry about losing my job through a “downsizing” or “reorganization.” I can go to bed when I want. Having made the summit, I realize that there is so much more to life than meets the eye. And I can do it on my terms.