A few days ago I mentioned two words that I was looking forward to – retirement eligible. Lately, I have been thinking about retirement in general. At one point in my life, when I was much younger and more naive, I looked at that stage in life very differently than I do now. I thought that one got to the magic retirement day, was awarded the proverbial gold watch, and slipped off into a life of relaxation and perhaps travel, and that may be the case for some.
My grandma (the only grandparent who lived long enough for me to get to know) never retired. She was widowed and left alone with three young children, destined to live a life of hardship as she struggled to raise her children in the Great Depression years. She lived in the same tiny house for the remainder of her years and there was never a formal retirement time.
My father never really retired because he was forced to stop working due to illness and the few years he had left after that point were filled with hardship. He had planned all of his life for retirement, carefully saving and planning, but in the end what should have been his “golden years” were not to be.
My mom, a housewife for most of her life, never retired. During the years that she should have been enjoying life with Dad, she was taking care of him and visiting him in hospital.
My own dreams of retirement are most definitely not of a life filled with leisure. In the same way that young people attend post-secondary school for a number of years to prepare them for the life ahead, that’s how I’m partly considering my experiences right now. I see writing as something I’ll spend a lot of time on in my retirement years, so now I’m taking the time to practice and learn and prepare myself for the day when I can call myself a full-time writer. (Sounds good, doesn’t it?!)
Gerry and I also are spending a lot of time talking about what we what those years to look like. We envision a simpler, more self-sustaining lifestyle in a rural location where our children and grandchildren can spend time with us. I’ve just started reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I’m vowing that my grandchildren will understand that their vegetables come from farms and gardens not from perfectly manicured displays in a supermarket. I want them to have the opportunity to eat organically grown meat that isn’t pumped full of hormones.
The point is that when I say I am looking forward to being retirement-eligible in four years, it’s not so I can ride away into the sunset and live a life of leisure. Lord willing, it’s so I can begin the next chapter.
Tell me, what does retirement mean to you?