Saturday, October 09, 2010

retirement -- round dos

The Starbucks was not unique.  But are they ever?  Manzanillo or Paris, you feel as if you are within walking distance of the Pike Place Fish Market.

A lawyer colleague had invited me to coffee to talk about my job duties over the summer.  She ordered coffee.  I was happy with a plate of conversation and a side of smug complacency.

Well, I was complacent until she said: "I see you flunked retirement -- just like my Dad.  He flunked twice.  What is it with lawyers?"

At the time, I was a bit offended.  No.  I was defensively offended.  Because she had hit a raw nerve.

When I came north, I told myself returning to work had nothing to do with flunking retirement.  I was simply returning to help my employer transition the new guy into my old job.

That exchange came back to me on Saturday afternoon.  School friends from Olympia drove down to spend the day with me.  Their daughter needed to do some shopping.  So, off we went to the local outlet mall.

I know it verges on sexist to say it out loud, but most women enjoy shopping.  Most men don't.

While the women folk went off to gather treasures, my friend Ken and I sat on a bench doing our best impression of two old guys waiting for a bus.  And we were good.

The topic quickly turned to retirement.  He told me he is making the jump soon.  He was amazed that all of his friends and colleagues ask him the same question: "But what will you do?"

"But what will you do?" I heard it a lot.  And still do.  One of our blog colleagues has grabbed irony by its horn and named her blog accordingly.

It was not until that afternoon that I realized the question is based on a false assumption.  Embedded in those five words is a far different question: "If you do not do what you are doing now, who will you be?"  The assumption comes from a society that defines its members by what they do.

I am not just Steve at work.  I am Steve the Attorney.  Just as there is Holly the Adjuster.  Mike the Vice President.  Brenda the CEO.

Strip those titles from our names, and we become as anonymous as a dethroned czar.  People with no apparent purpose.

Or so we think.  And perception matters.  Especially, our self-perception.  Until we are happy just being ourselves and are happy being alone with ourselves, slipping into retirement can be as frightening as creeping Alzheimer's.

Ken and I had quite an exchange on why "what we do" is irrelevant to retirement.  And I felt as if I had just had another side order of smug complacency.

That is, until I remembered my coffee get-together last spring.  I suspect I did flunk retirement.  When I heard my old job was being filled, I played with the idea of applying for the position.  That thought passed quickly.  But i did the second best thing.  I offered to return to train my replacement.  Because I thought I still needed something "to do."

And I am glad I did.  The last six months have taught me I made the correct decision -- to retire.  I am now ready for a titleless life.

A life that will resume in four more weeks.

Warm up that hammock.  I have a rendezvous with the rest of my life.


Anonymous said...

I've been retired 6 years now. I'm never bored. I think it depends on how many interests one has. I will never regret leaving the rat race to others.
Seems to me you were going NOB for 6 months, don't let "them" pull you back in!

Calypso said...

Hombre far from a "titleless life". You will find a whole bunch of new hats to wear I assure you. We are not defined by our work - it is the other way around. Life does not stop having meaning once we leave the working world - there is so much out there to discover - go find some of that. You have earned it.

Too much introspection can get really get tiresome. Now go retire and be happy!

Tancho said...

You're not retired yet Amigo.....
Retirement is a station in life, a concept, with the ability to produce the result.
There are many reasons why people often cannot retire and for those people they make the correct decision.
With you, we will see, what gets written in the next epoch.
So most men don't like shopping?
Let most men loose in a decent hardware store and see what happens. One can never have to many tools.....
We are waiting for you, don't let us down... if you really had to you cold devise some make do project via the Internet, to save face with your buddies up North. (we won't tell)

Felipe said...

Flunking retirement! I love that. And that´s precisely what you´ve done, amigo. An big, fat F.

In your defense, there are lots of folks, mostly men, who can´t breathe well without a title of some sort. You are in the majority.

And what´s this about four more months? If memory serves, you were heading north for about six months (conveniently placed over the muggy season at the beach), and now it´s extended to almost a year?

My, my, my!

Laurie said...

Flunked retirement? That would sting a bit. But everyone has a purpose. You need just to tweak yours a bit.

norm said...

You know you are retired when the words," when did I ever find time to work" pass your lips.

Mike Nickell and Cynthia Johnson said...

Four more months??

jennifer rose said...

You're busted now, dude.

Felipe may be older than dirt, but his memory is still intact. Hmmm. Did I just notice that "four more weeks" has replaced "four more months?"

You're going to have to get into a 12-step program, starting each morning with "My name is Steve, and I'm no longer a lawyer."

Steve Cotton said...

Francisco -- During the year I was in Mexico, I thought I was doing quite well in retirement. I had a good routine. And I was enjoying myself. The speed with which I grabbed up this work gig let me know there was still part of me that wanted to be something I once was. I have learned now that I do not need it.

Calypso -- Being "titleless" appeals to my libertarian soul. After all, we are who we are, not what we are. I just need to get back into that groove of discovery I found about six months into retirement.

Tancho -- You are correct. There are hardware stores. And Fry's. But we tend to hunt, rather than shop.

Felipe -- That should have been four "weeks," not four "months." I hope my inner worker was not playing tricks with my mind when I wrote that. I have not yet talked with my neighbors who own the house in Patzcuaro. I need to do that within the week.

Laurie -- I suspect this trip north has tweaked my perception of the work life. Now I can focus on a life of purpose.

Norm -- I actually got to that stage briefly in Mexico. I just need to find it again.

Mike and Cyhthia -- My fingers got ahead of my brain. I hope. It should be "weeks."

Jennifer -- I like the 12-step program idea. As long as I can find time to write. That has been the most challenging part of this trip north.

Brenda said...

Just my opinion here BUT if "being titleless" truly appealed to your soul, you would not have rushed north.

If you had not flunked retirement you would not have rushed north.

If you had truly liked where you lived and felt at home there you would not have rushed north.

Most people like being defined by their jobs/ job titles because they do know know themselves well enough to like themselves or to be happy and content without this title.

If and when you become happy and content enough within yourself so that what the rest of the people of the world think of you without your title, then you will be able to pass retirement with an A. Until you can do this, you will spend your retirement rushing around trying to fill all your waking hours with activities so that you do not have to be alone with you.

Not saying this all applies to you; but is what I see with a lot of retirees, they cannot leave the busyness of life behind, they need to fill the time with something just to escape facing themselves, even if this busyness is sitting in a bar drinking, which seems to be a common ex-pat pastime.
Just my dos centavos worth. Have a good day.

Gloria said...

I think you just miss work a little. When you go back to your "hammock" give some "free advice" a thought. When you get bored, set up a booth outside your home with a sign that says
"Free Legal Advice." It will help you stay active and keep your senses going and I doubt if you'd get sued if something goes wrong. Tee Hee. Have a great week. Or....get another family pet member.

Anonymous said...

You are testing the waters Steve and I think you are doing great. You will never "retire" as you have too much living to do. I don't think you belong in a hammack but you'll find that out too. Retirement is an opportunity to begin a whole new chapter in your life. You seem to be off to a great start.

Steve Cotton said...

Brenda -- There is the danger of substituting one activity for another -- from work to simply keeping busy. In one sense, I already experienced that with my blog during the first year in Mexico. The blog was almost like a full-time job. Given the choice, I would take the fun of writing over having a real job.

Gloria -- Good idea. Free advice is worth every penny paid for it.

Anonymous -- Thank you. And I look forward to that chapter.

Brenda said...

Nice quotes. I definitely relate to them.
Anything enjoyable done to excess can become a chore, even blogging lol. I don't often have anything interesting to say anymore so am blogging less and less. Maybe a bigger sign of laziness than anything else; but how often can you blog about the same holidays, celebrations, etc.? Lots of things that I do, I prefer to not blog about. Nothing nasty or illegal but more personal than I like to get on the blog; that also limits my blog fodder.

At times I find I have more demands being made on my time than I like, and I have a hard time saying that little word NO. Going to have to learn how to say it more.
Getting involved in the community brings on more things that one wants at times and strains the "being retired" mind and body.
I like having some things going on; but not too many that I begin to feel life is work again. It is hard to keep a happy medium when there are many things you like to do; but the mind and body are not capable or desirous of handling them all anymore.
Decisions, decisions lol, even when retired.
I am a big fan of enjoying wasting time; but as time becomes more precious with each passing second I am definitely more conscious about what I waste it on.