Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 260 A time to dream

What can I do with my retirement? This is a question we all face whenever, and if we ever get to that later stage of life. In days past most people did not live long enough to retire. And if one retired they stayed close to home. Children, brothers, sisters and long time friends offered a continuing focus. Not so today. Most of us don't die by age 65. And when we do retire we do not have a network of family and friends close at hand. We are loose fish.

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

We dream as children. We hear tales of far off places and exotic lives. We read books, and watch movies and television.We picture ourselves eventually living the life of our dreams. Then daily life seeps into our dreams. The teacher tells us to pay attention in class. Our parents tell us it is time to get a job. Reality reaches out and snatches our dreams.

We need to pay for college, car or apartment. We need a job. We become attached to the clock and the calendar. As Frost said, "...knowing how way leads on to way" our life is filled with obligations and daily necessities. Little time is left for dreaming of a different life.

Retirement offers us a chance to reignite the imagination concerning what we can do with our life. We are no longer young and we cannot aspire to some things that require a youthful body. But other than that we are free to explore to our hearts delight. I will not play college football or leap tall buildings in a single bound but I might range out into a wide world of adventure. If only my imagination would take me there.

Travel seems to be the one easy and common outlet for letting the imagination run wild. Retired folks pack the cruise ships and fill travel packages. They have the time, money and desire to see the exotic. Huge, tinted window buses fill the parking lots at tourist destinations. Older people in what appears to be newly purchased travel clothes exit and look at their watch. They have to be back at the bus in two hours and then it is off to the next scenic wonder of the world.

Elderhostel and continuing education classes from colleges offer alternative methods of exploring the world. Travel and learn is their specialty.

It doesn't have to be that way. I have some friends in their eighties who travel in a small van and carry all of their travel clothing in a small black rucksack. They roam for weeks on end. Many times they take their bicycles. They linger. They wander alone down foreign streets. They explore. Sometimes they take a train or a cruise ship in combination with their bicycles.

Some of us don't want to travel. Is there anything else? Golf probably ranks next to travel as a retirement goal. Some of us dream of living next to the links where we can tee off each morning. Of course we can watch TV or take the dog for a walk. Or we might join a bridge club and spend much of our time counting cards and creating acquaintances if not friends over time.

Many of us choose to volunteer at the local hospital or some environmental organization of one kind or another. Others of us choose politics as our focus. We hook up with a particular party, candidate or cause. We have time and energy to try to right the wrongs of the world. We knock on doors, write letters,  make calls, attend meetings or pull noxious weeds. Some of us volunteer at the food bank, libraries or schools.

And then there are the more creative types who grab a paint brush, welders mask, potters wheel, or thesaurus. The artistic gene is tapped and paintings, sculptures, pots, poetry and memoirs emerge. We join art guilds and book groups. We sing in the local chorus or play in the local symphony.

We let our imagination and lifelong dreams take charge. We step into another world. Of course all of this assumes that we have some imagination and dreams. Some do and some don't. Many retired people seem to just fade away. It takes effort to get up and get going. And as I grow older I am more sympathetic to this position of fading away.

My friends and I always smile when we talk of the pure joy of taking an afternoon nap. The old energy just isn't there. Or the pull of the living room couch is just too great. Another podcaster told me of taking a, "jamies and in the bed, under the covers hour and a half nap every day". Sounds pretty good to me.

Keeping a dream alive or reawakening one from the past is not always easy. Perhaps it is because it is difficult or perhaps it is because it is no longer a dream or a goal. It is no longer desired. We would hope that as one progresses through life our hopes and dreams might mature. Perhaps our childhood dreams should disappear. Our values and goals are now informed by more experiences.

We let our life move to other stages without turning back or being dragged down by the past. New dreams are what we need.

This is Retirement Talk.

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