By Terri White
Retirement: the prefix ‘re’ means ‘repeat’; the root word ‘tire’ stems from the Old English ‘end’ or the modern definition ‘exhausted’; the suffix ‘ment’ denotes ‘state or condition’. Literally, retirement means ‘a repeated state of ending or exhaustion’. Sounds confusing, right? Not a great-sounding future. Clearly, our definition of retirement has evolved.
While retirement has existed since the 1700s, it became more prevalent in the U.S.A. with the advent of the Social Security Act of 1935. It‘s a life-changing experience. Life slows down. Sleeping in. No set schedule. No demands. No kids. Flexibility. Time. Of course, house cleaning, laundry, yard care, and household maintenance never cease to pile up - but without the demands of careers and raising children.
However, not everyone navigates retirement easily. When my father-in-law retired from the railroad, he brooded in a chair for a year, feeling useless. He worked his entire life. No hobbies. Just work. Finally, he rousted himself to work part-time for K-Mart. A reason to face the world each morning returned.
After a friend received her master’s in Guidance & Counseling, she worked as a counselor in a community college until she retired at 59. The leisurely pace, though, drove her a little crazy, so she not only spent much time volunteering but also engaged in various activities to keep busy. Now at 76, she finally enjoys more leisure time.
My brother retired as a judge from the Wisconsin State Court of Appeals a few years ago. To ease into a more relaxed schedule, he substituted for various judges across his district. After a couple years of subbing, he hung up his “judge hat” for good. An avid outdoorsman, he bicycled, ran, hunted, fished, and the like during his career. Now he plays golf throughout the week with his buddies, followed by lunch and a couple of beers. During winter, the guys move to the bowling alley. There’s pickleball, too, and lots of reading.
When my husband retired three years ago, it took him a year to deprogram his mind from “work-mode”. Subconsciously, he put pressure on himself to be productive. Although he now still enjoys his accomplishments, he’s established a more relaxed pace. As a task-oriented person, he enjoys several hobbies: music, gardening, carpentry, and more. Interested in building and fixing a variety of projects, Steve stays fulfilled. He rarely misses people.
At age 73, I often think about retiring. In fact, my brother has been badgering me to retire. Well, not badgering, but, “Why are you STILL working?!” Is that badgering? Ha! Once I asked him if he was satisfied with retirement. His response? “Great. Sometimes I break up my day to get a haircut.” Hmmm. Not my idea of stimulation.
With my retirement looming ahead, I am, quite frankly, nervous about it. Reading, one of my favorite pastimes, keeps me occupied, but it’s never an all-day affair. Of course, I love writing. I love savoring words. I love searching for the perfect expression. I love rearranging words to create a balanced rhythm. Nonetheless, both are solitary endeavors.
Spending time with people recharges me. I need my regular “people dose” throughout the week. Otherwise, depression nips at my heels. There it is: my fear that I’ll sink into depression when I retire.
What if I don’t find the right balance to keep me sane? For my entire life, I’ve been involved with people nearly every day. Whether spending time with my children, grandchildren, volunteering, teaching, or visiting friends – all precious – my life has been rich. To experience days on end without that stimulation sounds like a living nightmare.
However, today I am not retired. Today, my life remains full. While retirement looms ahead, there’s still time to make plans for my future. I’ve spent my life experiencing adventures by walking through open doors. And retirement will prove no exception.