September 28th, 2014

Five Reasons to Retire

I’ve been retired for a year and a half now and I have learned five reasons to retire.

1. You need more excitement.

When you are working, when there is an emergency, you call someone to fix it. When you are retired, you try to fix it yourself. Need I say more?

2. You need more to do.

While I was working, I thought I worked independently, but I was deluded. I always had a portfolio, the stuff my boss and I decided that I should do. If the portfolio got too large, or too small, between the two of us, we would work out the priorities and shove some stuff off the dock. Retirement is different. There is no business. You have no portfolio. There is no dock to shove stuff off. The days and weeks go by and list of things to be done piles up like dust in a Martian valley. Nothing is ever crossed off.

3. You need more exercise.

When you work, you are on a schedule. You go to the gym before or after work on schedule. When you retire, you don’t exercise on schedule; you fix the lawn mower, catch the dog, patch the roof, and charge the car battery. Instead of gently relieving the work’s built-up tension with smooth motions on the elliptical machine, you beat your brains and throw your back out lifting a 700-pound riding lawn mower and developing an awareness of muscles you never wanted to have and you may have to have removed by an out-of-network surgeon.

4. You need more stress.

At work, when a former employee threatens to bring an assault rifle to the office and an executive sales manager threatens mass layoffs if the product doesn’t ship next week, what do you do? With thirty years experience, you calmly try whatever worked the last time. After three decades, there’s always a last time. At worst, you can hide in the supply closet. But retirement is a new world. There’s never a time before. You have to think this stuff up and you have no idea if it will work. And your gray beard and scraggy eye brows shout that youthful ignorance is not an excuse for this geezer.

5. You need to restart your education.

As you age, neural connections grow in your brain and new capacities develop. In your twenties and thirties, you have a wealth of facts at your fingertips: where you parked, where you left your keys, the names of your children, where you work, what you are doing at this moment. It comes so easily. From nursery school to graduate school, you have learned to acquire and use these ready facts to navigate through life. The day you retire, all of these ready facts head for outer space. With your facts mutely peering down from the interstellar chill, you have sixty years or so of education to replace with a navigation system that does not depend on knowing, for example, that Perry Mason is in reruns or that your area code changed in 1972. A retired person can live a normal life with the aid of a tablet computer chained to his wrist and instructions for using Wikipedia tattooed on his forearm, but it takes more fortitude than I can muster without a nap.

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