Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 225

"Books are for a scholars idle time" so said Ralph Waldo Emerson in his work entitled Address to the American Scholar.  Man thinking was what we needed to be doing.  What do we know? What can we imagine? What can we create? Those are not easy tasks. Knowing ourselves, imagining and creating ourselves. Not so easy. No wonder people prefer books and television.


This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

"Del, who am I? What am I? What am I suppose to do? I don't even know who or what I am. What is this retirement all about? I haven't a clue?"  This acquaintance of mine had just been forced into retirement at age 59. He was a professional director of a program with perhaps a 20 odd million dollar budget. Now he faced the wall. Where was he to turn for advice? Assistance? Guidance? Help?

Another friend of mine opened with this, "What can I do? I mean, you and I have lots of skills and abilities. We have learned a lot in our life time. We're competent people. We can do lots of things and yet no one wants us. They don't even want us to volunteer unless it is for some very menial task. They don't want us to do anything that we are really capable of doing. I just don't know which way to turn."

This is where Emerson's advice might be well taken. Man thinking is where we need to be. Retirement is the time for contemplation, our own answers, and our own action. Man thinking. Man acting. Easy? No.

We are not raised or educated to think and act on our own. Parents do that for us during our first few years. They tell us when to sleep, eat, play, or keep quiet. They even choose our toys for us. They choose our childhood swimming lessons, bicycles, clothes and books. We think and decide very little if anything.

Then comes school and a layer of teachers are added with the same intent. They direct what we study. When we color; when we play, when we read and what we read. They make decisions for us. Schools also provide us with a social network from which support and friends can be gleaned. We play on teams or work in groups. We learn a great deal from parents and schools. But being original in our own thinking is rarely experienced. We just plug in.

Then comes our employment years. Our job dictates where we live, when we get out of bed, where and what we do with most of our waking hours. Combined this with needs and wishes of spouse and children and our choices become very limited. We don't need to wonder about what to do with our life. Most of our minutes are required duty. Our life is lived within a web of restrictions.

No wonder then that retirement comes as such a shock to the system for many of us. We have never really had to THINK about what we were doing with our life. We have not had to decide when to get up or go to bed. We have not had to decide where to live or what to do on a daily basis. We have never had to really engage our mind independently of family, school or job. It is no wonder that a person can be 60 years old, very well educated, skilled and competent and yet say, "I don't even know who I am. I don't know what I am." 

This is what retirement is really all about. Free at last. We are released from previous restraints. Emersons admonition can become a reality. We can become Man Thinking. We can find out what we know. We don't have parents directing, nor teachers, nor bosses. We don't need to look in books. We are free to look into our own minds. Is there anything in there?

We can imagine and create a life for ourselves. What kind of a person do we imagine coming into existence? What do we want to do with our day, our morning, or our hour?
This is what Man Thinking is all about. We can now go about creating ourselves.

Where can we turn for guidance, for comfort, for advice? We can turn inward. That's would be Emerson's suggestion. To be sure there are other avenues that range widely. We can look outside ourselves in all sorts of places just like we have the rest of our life. But this unique opportunity has never come before and will never come again. We might want to try something different.  

Easy? Not hardly. We have had no practice. It will require discipline and intention. Volunteering and creating a third political party might be your inner desire. For others this might be impossible. They might want to sit on the porch, strum a guitar and learn folk songs. For some this would be impossible.

It isn't easy to look inside. Much easier to look at television, the New York Times or one of the best sellers. I'm not sure it as rewarding. Then again you might look inside and find that television, the New York Times or a best seller is exactly what you want in your life at this stage.

One thing about it; retirement makes new demands. It takes some adjusting.

This is Retirement Talk.





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