Nothing that went before prepares you for retirement. That light bulb has just clicked on in my brain.
From your first day of school through all the years of work, you’re taught to prepare, to strive, to advance, to make money and accumulate stuff. Always pushing on, always goal-oriented. Always another mountain to be climbed.
Nothing prepares you for retirement. (Except maybe golf. Should I have taken golf lessons?)
You have to practice, then take a written test and a practical test to get a driver’s license. You have to endure four years of high school and four years of college, and then you’re qualified to search for a job. You work and gain experience and skills, and maybe it leads someplace.
You need a license to get married; a divorce might be a little more complicated. You need a down payment and a credit rating to buy a house.
Then one day, late in life . . . retirement! The goal line is behind you — whether you scored a touchdown or even if you didn’t. Suddenly, nothing is in front of you.
I know that many people have goals in retirement, for new and different kinds of work or voluntary service. I’ve always expected that nothing would really change. I expected to keep on working, probably being even more productive, at something I actually wanted to do.
For some reason I hadn’t foreseen that energy and health (or at least vitality) would wane. I hadn’t expected my capacity for work to fall off sharply. I wasn’t prepared for my eyesight, dexterity, and balance to be less reliable. And my memory! Don’t get me started. Where were we?
Now that I’m on the brink of retirement, suddenly I see that maybe there aren’t any more goals I can reasonably strive for. Maybe failing to produce goods and services will not make me a bad person. This Puritan work ethic is a darned nuisance.
I have to reevaluate: Maybe retirement is going to be a time of leisure, rest and rehabilitation after a lifetime of work. That doesn’t sound so bad. If I’m not chasing after goals, maybe I’ll have time to sit around and get to know people. It might even be possible to simply life in the present moment.
— John Hayden