Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 219 Imagination & What to do

Imagine retiring and moving to Mexico. That's not so hard to do. Many people dream of such a thing. Last year I met this guy in Vancouver who was off to join his retired friend in Puerto Vallarta. The friend was living out his retirement dream. He was running a school for dump children at the city dump in Puerto Vallarta. Imagine? His life dream was to live in Mexico and help the poorest of the poor. And he is doing it. Not the kind of retirement living in Mexico most of us imagine. But he did.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

A couple of friends of ours just left town after taking a woodworking weeklong session with another friend of ours who is a wood worker. The couple taking the workshop were ranchers in South Dakota. They still live on the ranch even though they have sold it and are officially retired. Been that way for a total of three months.

He feels a little bit lost when it comes to answering the question "What to do in retirement?" Oh, they have ideas and some plans but nothing of a long range goal or direction. They want to do some fun things which is quite normal when one first retires. They want to travel: spend some time on their new boat, some bike trips, a hunting trip, a fishing trip and they have some building projects in mind. They are not running on empty.

But over dinner one night he said, "I just don't know what to do. You know that we have lots of skills and abilities or just general wisdom. We have learned a lot over the years. It seems like it should be put to good use. But, there doesn't really be anywhere for me to go or any place where I am really needed. I mean that just doesn't even make any sense."

"What do I do now?" that is the question that I have heard the most since starting this podcast on retirement.

Some of us know very well what we want to do in retirement and some don't. I'm not sure what makes for this difference. I'm also not sure it matters. We tend to sort it out. I just came across an article that stated that the happiest time in a persons life are the first ten years of retirement. I can believe that.

I'm not sure it worked that way for me.  I don't think the first ten years were any happier than the last ten.

But I do believe that imagination plays a major role in what one does with their retirement years. History or tradition offers little to help us in this task. Retirement is a recent phenomena of history. It use to be that people did not retire. They died. People worked and then got sick and died. Medical science has extended our life span about twenty years in the last century and of course that is about the length of time that we enjoy retirement years. We don't have much to guide us. Todays retired people get to be explorers. We venture into new territory.

It is a pretty exciting place to be. It is like getting to create a whole new chapter of life. We get to create something that didn't exist before. Certainly there have been people in history that have lived long lives but they were always the exception. Today many of us go through this door. What will we do? What will retirement come to mean?

Will we create a stage of life that is seen as relaxing, reflective, and rather passive? Or life that is seen as active, highly productive, guilt free and lived with enthusiasm? Or will we create a life of drifting without purpose or unity? Perhaps it will come to be just a time to be warehoused until medical science can no longer keep us alive.

It would seem that after a life time given to education, work and family that this later stage would be something new, different and perhaps even glorious. The challenge is to  create a new self.

This is when imagination enters the picture. Can we visualize ourselves operating a school in a city dump and helping those that need help the most? Can we visualize ourselves sitting next to a river bank with a fishing pole and a cooler of beer? Can we visualize ourselves traveling the world or writing the great American novel?

Some of us may overcome our earlier inhibitions of shyness and guilt to yet see our lives flower.  We will step out of the shadow of institutions and and cultural morays that have confined our minds and choices throughout our lives. We will find a way to share with younger generations the wisdom that has accumulated over the years. Imagine.

Retirement is a new phenomena of human history. It is a luxury of our age. It is a period of time to let our imaginations and wildest wishes to flourish. It is a time to become ourselves.  It just takes a little effort on our part. No one and no institution will do it for us.

This is Retirement Talk.



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