I might never retire.
I realize that now after a period of self-reflection and discussion with my g/f. Both of us are of a certain age that we could retire, even if we would be somewhat poorer for it.
But we’re very uncomfortable with the words “I’m retired” and what they imply when somebody asks a question like:
Somebody: “What do you do for a living.”
Us: “Oh, we’re retired.”
Somebody, chuckles: “Put out to pasture, eh?”
OK. Maybe Somebody wouldn’t voice that last thought. But they’d be thinking it, even if they weren’t visualizing some old workhorses chewing on long grasses amidst the tombstones.
Retirement seems, to us, to imply that we have deemed ourselves too old and tired to work — and we are far from being tired, old workhorses.
But wait, many retirees might be objecting, retirement isn’t just about being a certain age that makes you too old to work. It’s about being rewarded for decades of work and having all of the rest of your time to yourself . . .
I get that. My g/f and I both agreed that there are certain winter days we would want all to ourselves. We felt we’d rather just curl up in our bed and ignore howling blizzards, for example.
But, I reasoned aloud, if I stayed in bed, I wouldn’t have the joy of driving my 4×4 Jeep under the very conditions I had in mind when I bought it, i.e. back and forth to work in snowy conditions. Instead, I’d be wimping out under the covers at home because I didn’t really have to go out.
That’s the thing with retirement. You don’t really have to do anything. You can lump out the rest of your life on a sofa, venturing out now and then to buy some victuals (I love that word, don’t get to use it often enough) and booze. Work makes you get out and face the world; in retirement, facing the world is an option.
Sure. There are plenty of things one can do in retirement, and everybody I’ve ever heard make the declaration “I’m retiring” qualifies it with something like, “But no sitting on the couch for me. I’ll be keeping myself busy.”
There’s little followup, save for some pastoral photos on Facebook and Instagram. Mostly, former colleagues who have retired disappear.
That’s another thing about retirement: a lot of people disappear from your life when you elect to head to the pasture. For years, you’ve been a team player. You’ve been interacting with co-workers, working on common projects and goals, and sharing some chatter and humour with them along the way, if not hoisting a few pints with them now and then. Suddenly, they’re no longer part of your life. You’re not a player anymore.
To digress for a moment: Colleagues be damned, if you are filthy rich enough to keep yourself constantly amused by travelling the world, wining and dining and gambling in places like Monaco and snorkelling in the Caribbean, EARLY retirement is probably a GREAT IDEA.
But I’m foreseeing a 50 percent cut in annual income in my retirement future, like most average schmucks and schmuckettes. There will be no globetrotting in my post-work life.
As you can tell by now, I’m just not feeling old and tired enough to walk away from the working world, even though a nagging little voice in my head keeps saying “I’m an idiot for not retiring.”
But I was humbled the other day — and somewhat shamed — when we ran a Q&A with a remarkable person. To quote the 100-year-old woman who was asked in a Montreal Gazette interview why it is “so important for you to keep working long past the age when most people usually retire?”:
Her response: “More intellectually stimulating –– don’t want to sit twiddling my thumbs.”
She added: “I do understand why people would retire from repetitive jobs.”
Her job: neuroscientist and McGill professor. Almost every day of the week, she goes to the office.
My job is intellectually stimulating, too. And challenging. The newspaper industry is shrinking, and those left behind have to do a lot more with a lot less. Still, it is a noble cause …
As you can tell, it’s obvious that I am just not ready to retire yet. I can still contribute. But still the admonishment from that little voice . . .
I know that my g/f and I are not the only ones mulling the To Retire or Not To Retire question. I have friends from high school who have retired, others who are still working. Some are thinking about it, no doubt asking similar questions.
Ultimately, it’s about “feeling ready to retire,” some people might say.
Which begs the question: what exactly is the feeling?
Is it liberation, with a seemingly endless horizon before you?
Or is it resignation, with a sense of having one foot in the grave?