Retire, that is.
And to my surprise, a lot of people—including well-intentioned friends and family—are having a hard time with that.
Okay, maybe it’s some kind of a sickness or an addiction (“Hi, my name is Harvey and I’m a workaholic.”) But I love my work and I love to work. It’s what I do. Maybe it’s even who I am, at least a little bit.
But here, as Shakespeare (also quite the workaholic judging by the number of plays he wrote) once said, is the rub: Some people just can’t understand why, once individuals can begin drawing on their pensions, they don’t cease and desist their professional pursuits in favor of spending their remaining years in pursuit of leisure.
I get it. I really do. From the time we’re in school, it’s handed down from one generation to the next, that work is the ultimate four-letter word. We’re just not supposed to enjoy it because, well, just because …
Instead, we’re supposed to work just enough to pad our savings—with some of us constantly trying to short-circuit the process by buying lottery tickets or praying for the peaceful but soon departure of a rich relative—to allow us to spend some number of latter years in comfort and the pursuit of anything but work.
From the comfort of my age-55+, “active lifestyle” community, I watch my neighbors in such pursuits. From morning to night, my community is abuzz with playing bridge, gardening, aerobics, and golf … even something called pickleball, which Wikipedia assures me is “one of the fastest growing sports in North America.” In fact, from where I sit, this pickleball just might one day surpass my community’s favorite sport: going to the doctor.
Believe me when I tell you that I have stopped and I have smelled the roses. And they smelled nice. So nice, in fact, that the scent made me think of an article on the health benefits of good smells for my publication, Western Pennsylvania Healthcare News.
Most Americans think about retiring between ages 62 and 67. Of course, this practice started when few of us were expected to live to see 70. Many people back then toiled at physically demanding and dangerous jobs and retirement wasn’t so much a reward but an acknowledgement that the human body eventually breaks down and we become so unproductive that it’s best we be put out our pasture.
But today, it’s not uncommon for most of us to live into our 80s and we all strive to find ways to fill those “golden years.” For me, the answer is the ultimate four-letter word: WORK. To me, life has never been about the destination (retirement) but the journey. Ironic, isn’t it? When we encounter a young person, fresh out of college, we pepper them with questions about what kind of work they’ll be doing and how soon. Forty years later, we badger each other with questions about when we are going to quit working and devote our time to something we’ve always wanted to do.
But as the noted philosopher Confucius once said, you should “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.
And as that other noted philosopher, Steve Martin might say, “Excuuuuse, me.” But I need to get back to work.