I’ve lost count of the number of how-to articles I’ve read concerning retirement. While pondering this experience called retirement, it occurred to me that the reason so many how-to-do-it articles are written is because nobody has clearly identified and defined what retirement happens to be, then conveyed a comprehensible explanation to the throngs of people involved in it or contemplating it.
A reasonable assumption would be that once something is properly defined, many of the how-to-do-it concerns would become obvious and fall into place, but that isn’t the case. Undoubtedly, people with a longer retirement history than I possess will read this column, so I’m easing into the task of defining and clarifying what retirement really is with caution even though I’ve been involved in it for nearly 16 years. Also, the only means at my disposal for transmitting my thoughts to you on the subject is words that you appropriately filter through your experiences, perceptions, and biases, hopefully allowing much of my intent to remain intact. However, there’s a distinct difference between this and face-to-face oral communications, because you can’t receive my verbal cues such as voice inflection, body gestures and facial expressions supporting and clarify my meaning.
With that in mind, let’s get to the task of defining retirement.
My first crack at creating a simple, straightforward definition sounded too philosophical, and I wasn’t pleased with the next batch either, so I did something drastic, ponder, or as I prefer to label it, think. That’s when it occurred to me I needed to contact my seasoned, retired friends and acquaintances and gain their perspective on this adventure called retirement.
Interestingly, most told me retiring was a dream and for years seemed out of reach, implausible. Each wanted to do it sooner, but unanticipated occurrences moved their dream farther into the future. They also correlated being a retiree with retirement, but never bothered defining it in depth. Still, they dreamed of saying, “I’m retired.” Therefore, calling yourself a retiree and being actively involved in retirement are, in fact, integrated; so using the premise, aging and complaining could be associated as well.
While many of us do it, we know it isn’t a valid assumption and doesn’t clearly define retirement. Technically, when you retire, you’re a retiree, but are you in retirement just because you no longer work?
Retirees talk about retirement often, but that doesn’t define retirement. Or does it? Does saying you’re retired make you a retiree? The topic of retirement becomes convoluted without ever defining or clarifying exactly what it is; clearly defining it requires further exploration.
Some retirees get so caught up in the daily techniques believed associated with retirement, such as ensuring everything is just right, whatever that means, they ultimately become frustrated or depression sets in due to stress.
I’m venturing into seemingly unrelated territory; bear with me as I step into the misunderstanding pool. Consider this: If you’re working, you aren’t a retiree. Or are you?
Retirement isn’t preparation, planning or anything else. Retirement is retirement —period. It’s getting up, doing whatever you want to do or nothing at all. Retirement isn’t an exact science or about perfection, but rather being content on any given day; it’s consistency. It’s heaven or hell depending upon the day and circumstances, a lifelong relationship with you and time. It’s joy, solitude, introspection and a mirror image of your world, the only one your have today. Regardless of how mundane, it’s now your life.
Retirement is impartial, striving to reflect good and bad, sometimes manipulative. To people intent on acquiring it, it’s viewed as unbridled personal power. When times are good, it’s magic; time doesn’t exist for the moment. Sometimes it’s as boring as watching grout dry, depending on your mood. It’s an astounding issue, this thing called retirement.
Fact is, retirement is nearly indefinable. I can say this for sure: If you aren’t working, then get busy retiring. Do this and you’re a retiree. That’s about all there is to it.
Can you define retirement? Does an evolving definition of retirement change the way you approach it? I’m interested in learning how you define retirement.