Friday, July 2, 2010

Retirement Musings

As I'm approaching retirement age (still 7 years out from it) I am becoming much more sensitive to the issues surrounding it. It's a huge change in a persons' life, as powerful and changing as becoming a parent is. Nothing is the same after retirement.
Some people barely retire. They have so many other activities going on that they might as well be working. They're still up before dawn and the days are just packed with projects, fun, visiting, volunteering, entertainment, travel, or doing whatever they damn well want to do.
Other people can just sort of subside into a half-life of boredom, isolation and inertia. Having the freedom to do anything they want doesn't energize them and they sink into a morass of self-pity that certainly looks like a deep depression from the outside. To be fair, sometimes financial, health, or other situations can have a strong negative influence that can sap all of the joy out of freedom.
But a lot of the difference is personality. Even with health issues, people with a positive personality will keep moving. You see them out in the world, moving around with a walker and oxygen... but definitely still moving. Nothing keeps them down and they learn to work around any problem so that they can still enjoy being alive.
A couple of days ago a friend retired. Those of us left behind at the office as he drove away to a life where he can do whatever he damn well wants to had a lot of mixed feelings. First was genuine happiness for him. He deserved his freedom and he's leaving in time and with good enough health and finances that he can enjoy (hopefully) many years of retirement. Second was that we will miss him. He has a great personality and is a wise and thoughtful person. He was a pleasure to be around and he's not going to be around every day any more. There's a gap now where he used to be, although it will close up and be filled with the daily activities of office life.
And third, there's just plain jealousy and feeling sorry for myself because I can't fly away into retirement too.
My husband is also considering retirement (he's 64) and we're carefully considering the financial implications of it. It will change both of our lives, especially with him retired while I'm still working. Retirement dates and pensions and financial concerns constrain me to the office for the next seven years.
Today when I climbed up the flight of stairs to my second-floor office the last 5 steps were nearly insurmountable. It was a sense of inertia settling over me, as if I had walked into a force field that was dragging me, almost to a stop. Thankfully, I achieved the top landing, pulled on the door handle and opening the door assisted by the negative inertia I was under the influence of, and by a shift of my own body's inertia as I hit the end of the pull of the door handle, I was able to slingshot myself through the door and into the hallway. I usually feel something like this on Monday mornings, but this was stronger, harder to overcome. It was as if nature was trying to grab me and roll me back down the stairs and out the door instead of letting me walk unimpeded into my place of work.
I know this is a fancy, but it's probably been triggered by the awareness of others around me making the transition. It's like I'm still in the cocoon and they've cracked theirs open and are escaping their self-made definitions of their adult working lives to finally have the freedom they were so eager to abandon as teenagers.
We were so eager to grow up. From a toddler who wants to be a "big kid," all the way through our school years, we pursued "bigness" as if it were the ultimate goal. We wanted to be adults so bad we forgot to fully enjoy childhood. The next thing we knew it was 3a.m. feedings, electric bills, and 10:00 team meetings. Buying groceries over the lunch hour and going to teacher's meetings and dentist appointments for the benefit of our children. Evenings were filled with reading, homework, baths, laundry and bedtimes. I think we had some fun, I remember things like riding an elephant at the zoo, for example, but it was the kind of fun where you were always thinking of the care and benefit of the family first. We spun the cocoon around ourselves, constraining our lives by our responsibilities and expectations of ourselves.
I guess it's time to ask "Who am I, really?" before the cocoon opens and I slip the bonds I've made for myself. What will I do, in the end?

1 comment:

  1. I imagine you being with us but that may just be me. :) And start taking the elevator maybe. lol