Friday, March 29, 2013

Retirement Reflections

Yesterday I went to a retirement party for a UD co-worker.  Retirement parties here are like reunions--the University is kind of like a little city where people move around from one department to another but stay in touch with the people they meet along the way.

As people came into the party, they hugged the guest of honor, and everyone said just about the same thing--"Congratulations, I'm jealous."

Me too.

Retirement parties seem to inspire celebration in the person who is leaving and reflection in the rest of us.

A generation ago, most people retired at 65 and often lived only another 10 years.  They were truly retired. They got the token gold watch and went home to watch TV and putter in the garden.

Now, a lot of us are retiring earlier and living longer, which opens the door for another life after retirement...for second chances.

My friend who retired yesterday is only 55.  She's already thinking about what she might do after she takes the summer off to regroup and relax. Like me, she loves animals and the beach.

Who knows what kind of part-time job she might come up with now that she's not worried about benefits and mortgage payments?

My husband, Doug, retired two years ago when he was only 57.  He had spent 30 years working at UD as a machinist, a career that he never really chose.  He turned out to be very good at it, but it wasn't like he work up one morning in his early 20s and said, "I think I'd like to be a machinist."

So when his 30 years were up and he was tired of the academic skirmishes he witnessed almost daily, he retired.  Now he's doing something he loves--he's a part-time photographer. He's had photos published in the local newspaper, he entertains his Facebook friends with new albums every few days, and he even gets paid by UD to take pictures at events and in classrooms and laboratories.  Doug is living his second life, taking advantage of his second chance.

This is why so many of us told our friend yesterday that we're jealous.  We're still young enough to want to live an active life, but we're old enough to know that we have to take advantage of every minute.

I'm lucky that I get paid to write, which is something I love to do. What I'm straining against now is that harness of schedules and obligations that loosens when we retire.

I'd like to have the luxury to lie in bed for just a few extra minutes and listen to the first birds of spring singing outside our window.

I want to volunteer at an animal shelter but not have to get there in rush-hour traffic--after I've already worked a full day at my regular job.

I want to walk on the beach and just sit there when I'm done, gazing out at the bay:

I want to sit on the porch at our beach house and look out at the wetlands.

I want to see more sunsets and spend more time with our friends:

I want to paint more furniture:

I want to take our soon-to-be-adopted Lab, Jodie, to classes to be a therapy dog so we can visit people who need soft fur to pet and a sloppy kiss from a sweet girl who wants to be everyone's friend:

I want to see what kinds of writing ideas come to me when I'm not being paid by someone else to write about something they want me to write about.

But we're not financially ready for me to retire yet, so in the meantime, I have to be grateful that I am paid to do something I love and that I have a husband who picks up the slack at home so that I can relax after work.

And this summer, instead of taking a week or two of vacation in chunks, I'm going to spread the wealth and take a day off every week so that I can pretend I'm semi-retired.

I'm going to spend time with my daughter and our friends in Rehoboth, with my husband and our pets at our little cottage by the bay, and by myself doing whatever I feel like doing.

Because that's why we're jealous of our friends who retire--we know that, for the most part, they're now free to do whatever they feel like doing.


  1. This is great Diane!!! I might even know who you're referring to concerning the recent retirement :-)

  2. I've still got a few years before I can think of retirement (7+), but I'm already thinking about what my second act will be--and doing things now so that I'll be ready to step on that new stage. I'm enjoying what's now, but I definitely look forward to a time that's as you describe.

  3. That's smart, Rita, because it's the only way we can craft a meaningful life for ourselves is to prepare for it....mentally, emotionally, and financially.