EXPERIENCE AS A FLASHLIGHT: When I was in my 30’s and my life was in high gear I couldn’t wait until I could retire. It seemed my life was so busy I never had the time to enjoy things. I was under the pressure of an 8 to 5 job. I was paying a mortgage, married and running through my days. I worked in Detroit commuting every day. I once figured if I worked at the same company until I retired, I would have spent 2 years on the bus going to and coming from work.
When I was in my 40’s and 50’s I had the kind of job that required self-motivation. I worked at home or in my office next door. The work was not as demanding, but there were too many meetings at night. I had to work Sundays. I was on call 24 hours a day.
It seemed that work was taking too much time and energy.
As I neared retirement, I imagined carefree days of relaxation, having nowhere to be and nothing to do.
I remember noting that I would need to have some kind of focus because I had heard of a number of men who retired and within a year had died. No focus. Having nothing to do would be a plan for catastrophe.
I also remember noting that I needed to be careful not to volunteer for too many jobs because a lot of people had shared “I’m so busy. I don’t know how I ever had time to work.”
I was going to take it easy and NOT volunteer.
As I neared retirement, I began to fear I would die never getting to experience it.
Finally my retirement arrived. I was ecstatic. I loved being able to ride my bike around town in the summer while other people were at work.
One morning, however, I woke up thinking “what is my purpose? I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t have to accomplish anything.” I felt hollow and purposeless.
It occurred to me that I needed to find the right balance between things to do and free time. I gradually picked up some volunteer jobs to fill out my time. I wrote a book which was a huge project.
In retirement, there have been times of regret that I don’t have a job, not for the money but for the singleness of purpose and discipline. Even though I know I could not keep up the pace, I miss the focus and discipline a steady job provides.
Retirement is nice. I can set my own agenda. I have the freedom to write. Having a job all those years, however, provided me with a focus and a routine.
I have come to understand that every age of life has it’s challenges and it’s blessings. The best advice I’ve come across in all my years I heard in the first line of a James Taylor song (“The Secret O’ Life): “the secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.”