Retired, but not from life

Yesterday I retired from the job I’d held for many years. I had a great sendoff, with lots of good wishes and some truly special gifts from the best bunch of colleagues anywhere, or at least in this corner of the Milky Way. I’ve got plans for the first day of the rest of my life, and the days after that. What’s been a little hard to pin down is my identity and sense of self.

“Retirement,” of course, isn’t what it used to be. In the old days, I might’ve put on a golf cap and plaid pants and headed off for a life on the links. Now I’m updating LinkedIn – but how? Do I call myself a former journalist and writer-editor or a current…what exactly? My conundrum isn’t “Woe is me” but, “Who is me?”

Even though I was ready to move on and did so wholly on my own, with nobody nudging me toward the door, it’s a jolt to the system. Except for a year in grad school, this is the first time I’ve been voluntarily without some kind of paying job since I got my undergrad degree back in (!) 1976.

I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster, and not just any old rollercoaster, no sir, but one of those new ones like the “Twisted Colossus” or “Wicked Cyclone.” After all, this is a Big Move, especially for someone in the early stages of geezerdom. I was ready to declare a mid-late-life crisis with all the attendant benefits, like moving my personal happy hour from 5:30 to noon. Then I read about the latest chapter in the all but unbelievable story of Austin Hatch.

You might know that name if you’re a University of Michigan sports fan. Austin survived two small plane crashes that killed his parents, brother, sister, and stepmother. The second time, in 2011, he was not only orphaned but left in a coma with a severe brain injury. However, U-M honored the basketball scholarship it had offered before the crash. He fought his way back, stayed on the team, and scored his first points last season in an inspirational moment for the ages.

Now he’s facing another life change. To focus on academics and all-around recovery, he’s taking a medical redshirt. That means he’ll keep his scholarship and be a student assistant with the team but his playing days are over.

This has thrown lots of athletes into despair. But Austin’s response, as reported here by the Detroit Free Press, was “Basketball has always been a huge part of my life, however, it is what I play, not who I am.”

Thanks for the reminder, kid. I’m not a title or a Facebook status, but a person. And if Austin can handle the kind of adversity and upheaval that the fates have dealt him, people like me can definitely get through our own relatively minor transitions. (Grammar grump alert: transition is NOT, at least on these pages, a verb.)

Some of my retirement will be inspired by Bob Dylan’s line “Oh, oh, are we gonna fly, Down in the easy chair!” from “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” But I’ll also keep trying to live by this one, as I have for a long time: “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

Monday morning I’m going to sleep in. Then I’ll get up and write. See you soon.

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4 thoughts on “Retired, but not from life

  1. Mike Dale

    Dave,

    Best wishes for you. I’m in a very similar boat with June 1st being my intended date

    I see a lot of “retirement help advice” on the internet. i.e. the five big dangers of retirement etc. Most of these focus on financial things. If you have “enough” that is hardly the issue.

    The real issue is how to replace the forty+ hours of high level engagement at work with 40+ new hours of high level engagement with new friends and new things. Not TV, not the Internet, not 3 hours of senior coffee at McDonalds.

    For me it is going to start out as a chance to finish a pole barn full of unfinished sports car projects. In the winter there will be a basement full of similar things (Antique tube type radios and guitar amplifiers).

    But in amongst those will be the main goal; a chance to re-connect with my wife. I’ve been home only sporadically these last 5+ years. There is a caution; I’ll be moving into her space. I’ve already promised her I will do my very best not to drive her nuts. I’ll set up another computer and a TV in the basement, so we can both be on when we feel like it. Easy to do. I’ll also do my share of the household chores; all the ones i was in too big of a hurray to go to work .

    In between I would like to learn some Spanish. Enough so I can spend some time in South America. The jobs and various travels have taken me lots of places but never down that way.

    I do have some rather modest literary ambitions. Through the years there have been four books (technical things) and I suppose hundreds of magazine articles. I’ve got “characters” I’ve known and met through the years. Now I just have to juxtapostion them into a novel that has some reasonable destination. We’ll see.

    I’d also like to learn to be a better welder. I learned to weld some when I was in high school, but would love to learns me some MIG and TIG and stuff like that.

    Every once in awhile I think back 25 years ago. Good gravy that was a long time ago. I use that number because it is possible that I have that much more time out in front of me. Lots of time to do new and interesting things. These last 25 were very good years, I hope the same for you and me and our families for the next ones coming.

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  2. mmpatterson2015

    All of us who have retired, either voluntarily or via not so subtle hints and orchestrated strategy, go through the same transition process. It is such an adjustment! At least if there are kids in their 30s and amazing grandchildren, those can become a focus. It’s great to be asked to travel across state to help out with a little sickie. Scary when the little becomes one of a kind bad for a 3 year old. Great when you can help out a single older neighbor by getting her to PT to deal with post-knee surgery rehab. Sleeping in is a real breath of fresh air, at least for awhile until there’s time to notice that your body is in need of some rehab itself:)

    Huh! I guess I was too bushy with the job/mission + kids + original and same hubby to notice my body was being over used and sometimes overlooked despite best efforts not to defer maintenance. With bodies as with houses, deferred maintenance has its consequences!

    Strange: there is still too little time to savor a hummingbird’s visit, stop and plant, much less smell those roses with reading to do and housework. I don’t cook much, but gratefully, my husband does. I keep him in ice tea, tell him when imho he needs to see a doc and I’ve made an appointment. Since one car is totaled, he takes me to work and picks me up on days when I substitute teach, provisions, takes care of the car, etc., etc., etc.

    You have an avocation and a mandate to share the wisdom of your years with those younger, whether they wanted or not, appreciate it or not. Don’t you remember times when someone older and wiser advised you and while you rejected it at first, dang, later you realized the value of their insight and better yet, remembered the insight!! Hang in there, watch for opportunities to contribute and go for it as if you weren’t retired. There are years left and miles to go before you sleep!

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  3. Pingback: Dragonfly days | Dave's diaries

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