THE ENIGMA OF RETIREMENT

by Marc Cullison    [mcullison.com}

It’s official.  I have retired from my job as instructor at Connors State College.  You will notice that I did not state that I was just “retired”.  After thirteen years of trying to outwit young adults, cajole them into coming to class, and instill within them some semblance of knowledge, it was time to leave those pursuits to another generation of brave souls.

I had been toying with the idea for a few years and my wife, always the voice of reason in my life, finally made me see that it made sense.  For the last several years, I have seen friends and relatives retire.  And I have also seen these same souls, who boasted about their retirements with such pride, now settle into lives of insignificance and boredom.  That is one of the things that had prevented me from retiring too soon.  Never having done that, retiring that is, I had little perspective of what my expectations should be.  So many of the folks I had talked to went on about a carefree life of pleasure, travel, and exploration.  That’s not what I see when I look at them now.

Then it occurred to me that these folks retired with nothing to do.  They had no hobbies, other than sitting in a chair watching television or drinking, or sitting around with other retirees talking about illnesses, contemptible family members,  and other such delightful topics.  There were a few lucky ones, however, who busied themselves with meaningful tasks.  They worked around the house, volunteered for charities.  They are busier now that they ever were.  No boredom, no laziness, no insignificance attached to their lives.

I am one of the lucky ones.  I am working on my house, which is akin to saying I’ll have something to do for the rest of my life.  I am also writing, and doing odd jobs for folks I know.  Financially, we are going to do just fine.  It’s not as if we can go on six-month world tours, but we can hold our own.

The only problem I have with retirement is keeping my days straight.  When a new project surfaces, I keep thinking that I’ll have to wait until the weekend to start it when I’ll have time.  I don’t have to wait.  Or when I’m absorbed in the middle of a project, I keep thinking I’ll need to finish as much as I can before Monday, when I return to work.  I don’t because I have no work to return to.  That small shift in the thought process is difficult to overcome.  When you do something for most of your life, it’s hard to change it.  I had spent thirteen years telling my student that very same thing when I explained principles of science and told them they would have to unlearn some things and relearn them the right way.  Now I have to follow my own advice.  Life is a difficult lesson, sometimes.

Bit by bit, I am acclimating to my new role as a retiree.  I am beginning to realize that I can pick up and go somewhere just about whenever I want.  I don’t have to wait for a weekend or holiday.  I can do pretty much whatever I want.  I’s not a slave to the clock, anymore.  And I can sleep beyond that 5:45 wakeup alarm every day of the week and get up when I want.  And go to bed when I want.  Well, I say that with good intentions, because my wife also has an agenda, now, that has changed because of my decision to retire.  So, I have to consider how what I do affects her.  But we have come to a pretty good understanding of what each of us wants and expects.  Or, I think we have.

If you are thinking about retirement, there’s more to it than just stopping work.  It doesn’t just stop.  There are other people involved who need to share their expectations with you.  You will need to consider income, health insurance, travel, and friends and relatives.  They all have a stake in your retirement.  Listen to them.

About marc cullison

Retired college instructor, math and science. I write and read as much as I can. I am also working on my log house. So much to do.
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