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                            Retirement Talk for Boomers, Seniors, and Retirees

Episode 165 Taking a Risk

Irene is a friend of mine who is in her early eighties. Just a few years ago she was telling me about a backpacking trip through Europe that year. She was staying in a hostel in England and stayed out eating and drinking past bed time. The doors were locked. She found a window open in the men’s dormitory and crawled in through the window. “No one would mind” she said, “An old woman like me isn’t going to frighten any of those young guys in there.” “No one woke up”, she added. “And I found it a bit exciting.”

This is Retirement Talk. I’m Del Lowery.

There is something about trying something new. We encourage it in our children. We love to see them try new foods, leap into our arms, or dive into the water for the first time. They know it is important. That’s why they do it again and again while crying, “Watch me! Watch me!” They have taken a risk – and bath in the happiness it brings.

Nietzsche proclaimed this as a basis of happiness. He wanted us to step out on the edge and take a chance. He urged us to do something different with out lives. We need to break ourselves in two. And then create an even greater self. He uses the story of a tight rope walker to illustrate his point.

A wise man comes carrying a lit lantern into a village to show the people the light or the way to live. Just as he gathers a crowd and starts deliver his message a tightrope walker steps out on a tight rope. The crowd abandons the teacher for the excitement of the risk taker. The ropewalker falls to his death. The wise man smashes his light and runs to the body of the walker. He takes him in his arms and tells all around that this is the message he came to deliver. This is the way one should live. The crowd doesn’t understand and disperses. The wise man says that he has come too early. People just don’t understand. I’m not sure we should all take up high-wire walking, but perhaps something different would lend a bit to our lives.

One thing about never doing anything new or different: we limit our risks. The second thing is that we become boring; boring to ourselves and boring to others. We may be comfortable but we are not very interesting or exciting. We can watch TV day in and day out. We can establish daily routines that take all decision making out of our daily life. We can build walls around us physically and mentally; it’s sort like being dead before we really die.

Technological innovations seems to demand acceptance of change today. It constantly asks us to throw aside what we do know, and at times, to throw away the way we act. Our society changes its way of communicating, or learning, or booking airline tickets, or of reading a book, magazine or newspaper. It changes the way we get cash from a bank, find a recipe for dinner, find our way around town, or find our way about the country. Change seems to be the only thing that stays constant in our time.

I must admit it is a bit of a risk to throw away all of the previously learned methods of negotiating our neighborhood, community or world. Our only other choice is to withdraw. Stop taking risks; find comfort in an ever decreasing circle of friends, family, knowledge and geography. That doesn’t sound very good. At least it doesn’t to me.

What to do? Looks like the only thing to do is to step out on the tightrope; risk a little; time to sign up for a class at the community college or community center. Then perhaps we can combine a bit of the old with the new. We can sit down in our rocking chair with our laptop and plan our next adventures.

This is Retirement Talk.