Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 300 Milestones

Milestones are like mountain peaks - they give us a sense of where we are. They give us something to see, something to point towards or something on which to reflect . We locate ourselves in relationship to them. That is what birthdays, graduations, marriages, moves from place to place, job changes, and deaths are all about. Retirement has to be one of the more significant milestones we can experience in life.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

"The three most important decisions you will make in life are who you are going to marry, what career you will pursue and what fraternity you will join", so said the fraternity spokesman on campus my freshman year. This just sounds so absolutely absurd to me at this stage of my life. I suppose it might be of some sort of a milestone in a persons life but hardly one of the top three. I doubt it would make it into one of the top three hundred. It even surprises me that I can still recall the assertion. I think it is because I thought it was so ridiculous at that time. It stayed with me.

Real milestones are important. They keep us grounded, focused and give us a sense of movement. Childhood is filled with milestones that we can recall all the days of our lives. Things like the first day at school, getting a drivers license, graduating from High School, going off to college, our first job in some field that would end up being a career, our marriage or marriages, the birth of our children, sending them off to school or sending them off to college.

Of course rare trips have to qualify as significant milestones. Our first trip to Europe, Africa, Asia,  certainly qualify. Don Thompson a third grade school friend of mine took a trip with his parents to the west coast. He saw mountains. No one in my class had seen a mountain. He was the first. I vividly recall my first view of the Colorado Rockies when I was 17 and just out of high school. It was definitely a milestone in my life. I left my mother in tears as I joined three other recent graduates in an old Oldsmobile and hit the road. I told her I had decided against college and had to see the real world. This idea lasted about three weeks when I woke up and searched for a phone booth on the west coast. I had changed my mind. This was another milestone.

Retirement offers a special challenge to creating new milestones that will give us some sense of where we are and where we are going. It is easy to settle back into the rocking chair and turn on the tube or turn inward. Without realizing it the outside world disappears. We no longer have to pursue money for rent, food or necessities. We no longer have to pursue awards or achievements that will look good on our resume. We no longer have to prove ourselves to others. Those days are done. We may easily find our skills and abilities having little to no value. Without any effort or warning the world quietly shuts off our phone and walks past our house.

That is when gumption is call for. That is what my dad use to call it. It is sort of an old fashioned word. Today we might say initiative or ambition.  He used to say this whenever he would see me lazing around the house. Gumption was also a favorite word of my  mothers. I don't hear that word much any more.  But I sure like it.

My parents use to follow up the word gumption with the word work. There was always something to be done. Hoe the garden, clean the barn, mow the grass, shovel snow, etc. etc. They would sometimes force the issue with orders. "Just get up and do it" were also familiar words. That would get me moving.

At times during our retirement years we might find ourselves short on gumption or initiative. Then again perhaps we find ourselves short on a little encouragement to get up off the couch and get going. The milestones are now ours to create. We have to engage our own mind and reach out into a world and carve our own mountain peaks, milestones or goals. We need some points to ground us or locate us in space and time.

This podcast serves as one of my milestones: Episode 300. The  first one was published in 2007 and one has been published almost every week since. I'm not sure how valuable they are but I do know that some folks like them. The intend was to encourage others to think about what they are doing with their lives. Some listeners have contacted me and expressed appreciation.

It has taken some initiative, time and some work. My mother and dad would have said that it is a good example of what one can do with just a little gumption.

This is Retirement Talk.

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