When to retire, not fighting your nature, and the beauty of yoga pants
I have the best of both worlds. At 66 years, I publish the Birmingham Medical News, a newspaper I started 19 years ago for Alabama physicians and health care professionals. I have a salesman/VP who has been with me since the beginning, four writers, and a designer. We all work from home.
I can easily get my work done in four hours a day - I assign and edit stories; do accounting and keeping up with customers needs.
If I wanted to, I could spend my afternoons hiking or sailing or snoozing, but for the past four years, I've been writing a novel (home stretch of second draft) which for me is fun.
Which reminds me - you can read my first chapter at https://steveorino.substack.com/p/first-scene-of-my-as-yet-unnamed?s=w
Retirement, or near-retirement age are our best opportunities to begin the journey that will last to the end of our lives - the journey of self-understanding and learning what in life is truly important. In other words, the pursuit of real happiness and peace of mind.
This is my hobby now, even though I am not retired yet at 72, and my wife and I have found that spiritual pursuits at this age yield huge results, buttressed as these pursuits are by what we've learned in all these years.
I know, it sounds all touchy-feely, but I would challenge anyone to suggest a more important pursuit. I've found answers in religious traditions (but not as much in religious institutions themselves), spiritual thinkers (Richard Rohr, Jack Kornfield, etc etc), in psychedelics, meditation, and mostly, just in my day to day interactions with my wife. The pay for this is great, best I've ever made - it just isn't in dollars...
I waited until I was 74 to retire, and, have since wondered where I ever found the time to go to work! Now that I'm 78 my days fly by just doing things around the house and yard. I think the only time I actually take a break is when Jeopardy! and Rachel Maddow are on the tube. (Do people still call it the "tube" even though TVs no longer have tubes?) My list of things I want and need to do every day isn't unnecessarily long, but it seems I barely touch it before it's time to call it a day. I thought I'd get lots of reading done when I retired, but I barely find time to read "Slack Tide" and maybe an article in Harpers, or even a chapter in my mindless book. So my questions to you Matt are, "Where did all the hours in a day disappear to after I retired?" and "Are there still 24 hours in a day?" P.S. I think I'll pass on the yoga pants. If I tried that pose I'd end up in traction, then each day would seem like an eternity.
Another very fun read. Thank you Matt.
I think your writing should/could be used as college writing class curriculum - if it isn't already.
Count me as one of the happy retirees. I believe I have finally found my calling in being a slacker. I was laid off from my corporate job right at the start of 2020 and being age 64 at the time, I decided to retire instead of looking for another job. It has worked out great!
No, I'm not living every minute "to the max," nor do I have any desire to. I like the simple pleasures of a simple life. (I’m also a Thoreau guy at heart.) I meditate, do yoga, and take long walks in the park or the green belt. I read, listen to podcasts, watch videos, stream movies, and go out to movies. I socialize with friends. I go out to eat regularly. I enjoy running errands. And when all else fails, I might clean the house now and then. If this isn't nice, I don't what is.
I shuffled off the work coil in 2017. It was a beeeg deal. I worked for the Marine Corps and those guys take it seriously. Formal ceremony, awards, alcohol and other refreshments. Did I mention alcohol? People fly from all over to pay their respects. Stories are told. Toasts are offered. Of course, alcohol. (Designated drivers are . . . Designated.)
So what can top that? Now my main activity is doting. I dote on my husband. Make his favorite foods, plan our date nights, make sure he is breathing when he falls asleep with his mouth open when we are watching TV.
I dote on my sons and their wives. Send them goodies, Zoom with them, argue politics, make all their favorite dishes when they visit.
But the big league doting is for the grands. They get the best of it. Everything is special down to the detail of chocolate on their pillows when they visit. It is so extreme we bought a house with a leaky pool just so they could lounge, cannonball and call out for the elusive Marco Polo.
It doesn't stop there. The gardens are focus of constant doting. If it ain't planting, it's weeding, harvesting or, in winter, planning. The fruits of my gardens are like the fish of the Chesapeake. A gift from our Creator with just an Itty bitty effort on our part.
But the true object of my doting addiction are my birds. Not ones in cages in my house but the ones who flit and fly wild to my eight feeders. I make sure they are full and worry when the regulars are absent. I note which ones prefer which blends and accommodate those preferences.
I don't question this obsession. It's genetic. I am blessed with a busy-body gene and it is a problem for anyone lucky enough to blunder into the vortex. There hasn't been an intervention yet so I'm just gonna go with it.
Parkinson’s Law—that work expands to fill the time allotted to it—applies equally to leisure. I have discovered two things in retirement: first, as noted by the apparition who comes to Tully’s aid in the eponymous movie, earth days are too short; and second, you don’t really need seven or eight hours sleep a night.
I retired at the beginning of Covid to my former vacation house in Vermont. I exercise every day no matter the season (Must. Get. 50. Ski days. In. This. Year.) I volunteer. Play the occasional round of golf. And read too many Substack newsletter (But you're my fav. No. Really...). Before I know it, the day is over. Never been happier.
I feel like I've found your theme song. And it's all about my feelings.
Now I'm gonna hafta tryta train my inbox to play this as a notification alert sound for your newsletter.
Such a great column I decided it was time to become a paid subscriber. Dee, you are fabulous!
I watched something similar in my own life. My father retired to the golf course just before he turned 60, and never looked back. My mother turned all of her energies to volunteering and was probably working harder in her 70s than at any other point in her life (other than that interlude when she was raising my sister and I). Now that I am on the back nine of life myself, I wonder what camp I will find myself in? Maybe a hybrid?
I freaking love your writing. Thanks for all of it.
I "retired" from lawyering after 25 years and entered pastoral ministry (aka the second time in my life I was drafted). And you never really retire from that, even if you do slow down to part-time (ie fill-in) work.
Matt your too funny! And Go Dee Dee Go. Very Inspirational!
Go Dee Dee! And thank you, Matt, for writing a heartwarming column that made me smile.
I've had a number of "retirement plans" over the years. Came up with the first one about 4 decades ago when I was plying my trade in a large General Motors shop. I'd been there long enough to see a lot of guys in their late 60's and even into their 70's leave to retire almost with tears in their eyes. Not tears of joy - well, they no doubt were for some. But for others they were of sorrow and apprehension. They had become what they'd done for all those years, their identity and self-worth all wrapped up in their long-held jobs. Not me, baby. No way. It was gonna' be 30 & out. (I would have been 48 if that had actually happened.) Would still have to work, but I could take that pension and go do something else. Yeah, right.
Knew there might be a speedbump or two along the way. But I was young and dumb and didn't consider the possibility of the several rather cavernous potholes that would eventually open up and derail my scheme. So, after the first one was encountered, I made a new plan. And after the second, another. And so on, until I arrived where I am today 3+ decades later, a little late and not quite where I thought I'd be, but not a bad place, all in all. Turns out I had a pretty good suspension and some rather rugged tires that got me past those obstacles without too much lasting damage.
So, where am I now on the retirement thing? Semi. I ended up working in other shops just as I had planned, but not quite the way, or for the reasons, I'd intended. And I now find myself learning how not to be myself, part-time, 3 days a week. For as it turns out, I turned out to be one of those guys who became what he did and haven't quite learned how to completely undo that. Yet. I still like doing it, though it's not quite the pleasure it was 4 or 5 decades ago. But enough so that it doesn't hurt. And the extra nuts being squirreled away for the winter of my hopeful contentment as an old and truly retired slacker are a plus. So is the respect that I've found with my new employer. My last full-time employer was long enough on the $$'s and a few other things, but pretty short on that. So, no tears were shed when after more than a decade there, they gave me the boot a year ago under the guise of "lack of work", though I suspect it was more about the fact that as I've grown older, I've come to suffer fools less gladly and a whole lot less quietly. Worked out quite well, actually. Those unemployment $$ made for a pretty nice severance package for a while. But the best part was that it freed me up to go back to school and learn something new...how to not be myself and to be something else. I'm studyin' on that pretty hard, and steadily acquiring some new knowledge and skills on that subject. Looking forward to graduation day before too long, though I've learned not to make hard and fast predictions about that particular thing. Potholes, you know.
The point of this is merely a small bit of advice. If you're one of those folks wondering whether or not to pull the plug on employment for other than purely financial reasons, you don't have to power down all at once. If you have a sense of losing something of yourself, ease into it and learn how to be someone or something other than a plow horse, if that's what you want to be. And if you want to stay in the traces, then giddy up and good on you! Somebody's got to put a few more bucks in the pot so Matt can draw his just deserts in 2117. If he can resolve that scheduling conflict. Some potholes are just a little deeper and wider than others.
Full disclosure: I intend to use up as much of that pot as I can before finally clockin' out for good. Sorry 'bout that, Matt. 2118, maybe?