Thursday, August 5, 2010


Last Friday, my ex, the only man to whom I’ve ever been married, retired after working for the same pharmaceutical company for thirty-six years. On Saturday, I was lucky enough to be able to hear Joan Baez singing through my sunroom window. And then on Monday, I went back to work as my summer vacation ended. All of the above has gotten me thinking about work and how I feel about it.

The Big Kat seems pretty happy with his several-days-old retirement, as he was tired, not of the crux of the work: the calling on doctors he’s called on for years to tell them about drugs he believes in, but, instead, the peripheral exercises: the meetings, the paperwork, the bottom line, the rah-rah. When I talked to him about it, he said he realized what he was going to miss was no longer there anyway – the old days, the old guys, the old stories.

What does listening to Joan Baez have to do with my world of work? Joan Baez is 69 years old. I know this because I looked it up. I’m always happy to see people older than I am who are still working at something they love – and to have done what she’s done for over fifty years makes me think she must still love it. I can’t imagine she’s worried about surviving on her retirement funds, but you never know. Her 401K may have gone south like so many others.

And then there’s my going back to work. Although, when school starts each fall, when I say “just one more year”, deep down inside, I’m scared to death to retire. I’ll change jobs in heartbeat, actually every five years or so, but staring into that abyss is a frightening thing for me personally. My problem is that I don’t know who I am without work.

When you're young, you think, boy, won't it be great when I can retire. I didn’t realize until I got older that retirement (real retirement, not early retirement because you made a fortune as a commodities broker and are now going to sail around the world in your catamaran) means to the world that you are no longer viable, no longer worthy of being paid.

It’s got to be terrible when you're forced into retirement as lots of people have been recently. I think the best case has to be what my ex just did. He planned it carefully, taking into account his health, his money, and his interests. We'll just have to wait and see how he does with the change of routine because he is one routine-oriented man. He'll probably be on the golf course at the same time each day, from sunrise until the free beer-n-nachos buffet at five and then home in time for the Hill Street Blues re-run du jour.

I do have to say I enjoy work more now that I know I could retire. I remember back in the days when the years were yawning ahead of me, wondering if I could survive it all, the monotony, the drudgery, the getting up early in the morning. Now, I almost feel like it’s a privilege to be on the payroll, with someone paying me to do something at my age and level of disrepair. And then there are the work friendships: the discussions about who did what to whom and who said what and don’t tell anybody. I love the work culture, with us against them and did you hear about her.

I have friends who are retired and enjoying it. For some of them, it's because they are relatively well off financially. For others, it's because they have a partner in crime and travel, in most cases a spouse. For still others, it's because they've found something interesting to do, a hobby, a passion, a cause.

But, since there's little chance I'm going to come into big money any time sooner or later, and even less of a chance there's a former boyfriend who wants to be a future husband checking me out on my Facebook page, I'm just going to have to find my future in what I like to do and what I'm at least
somewhat good at.

And since it doesn't look like Joan Baez is going to hire me as a back-up singer or a roadie, I guess I'll just stick with this writing stuff along with some sewing, reading, TV watching, and talking about my grandkids on the side. All of that, any way you promote and cipher it, pays little to nothing, but it's cheaper than golf, and so far, it's keeping me out of the singles' bars.

By the way, do they still even have singles' bars? If they do, are there any that cater to the over-sixty set, with Happy Hour from three to five? I wonder if they need a bartender with no experience, one who's slightly hard of hearing and needs to be in bed by eight.


Kate said...

Hey, Marcia. Someone told me years ago that, physiologically speaking, fear and excitement feel the very same way in one's body. I don't know if it is true or not - and don't care. I hold to that theory because I can re-frame or rename that four-letter feeling, so it is no longer an excuse for not trying things.

This brand of writing that you do is wonderful. imagine where it can go when you have more time. But don't just stick to things you might be good at. Try any that interest. Who knows, you may just find something wonderful.

AND YES! There are places for those of us with earlier bedtimes. There is a public club here that starts a Karaoke night at 6pm on Thursdays, and a dance band on Fridays and Saturdays that starts at 7:00. We can have a ball and a couple of cocktails and still be home and in our nighties by 9. Very wonderful.

and besides all're writing gives lie to the rumor that you're scared of anything. hahahaha... can't fool me.
Thanks for your comment over at my place...I've gotta get back there.

Batya said...

Oh my god, Marcia. I'm stunned that this is your post today. Just a sec, I have to breathe. have been retired for a couple of years but I also was working. The company I worked for went out of business and I lost my job. So I piddled here, I piddled there, I volunteered in a senior home.... But pretty much there is a big void. My husband will be retiring at the end of the year. It's a forced retirement since the state is shutting down the state's PBS channel where he has worked for over 30 years. He's heartsick. FIrst of all he wanted one or two more years to keep working. Second of all, and by far the hardest is ending his long career this way.
We have floundering for the last few months about what this means for us. Financially, we are no wear near wealthy or even just plain rich (is that the same?),
You're right about thinking that when we retire and our time is our own, yay, it's finally our turn. And that is true, but what do you do?
I am going back to work and I really look forward to that. Not back to a fast paced, high falootin' job. Just something I enjoy and will be able to interact with people. It's a big change to retire and the concept is hard to grasp, especially the $$ part of it. But I still look forward to living a very different kind of life. I'm beginning to get excited by it.
Joan Baez is 69?

Batya said...

I wrote the above comment in almost one breathe. The words just fell out of my mouth with no real thought process in place. No, I didn't have my finger in the electric socket. It's just that your post and your writing just hit me in such a NOW deep place my response was immediate. Blessings.

marciamayo said...

Paula, your response brought tears to my eyes. Isn't it interesting how we, in our blogging community, help each other without even knowing it. I had just told Kate above that she'd done the same with me with her latest posting. So, you are going back to work? What will you be doing?

Olga said...

I love(d) teaching. If my job involved just teaching, I'd still be working. As a special education teacher, I found I was doing less and less teaching, more and more case management and paperwork. I loved my work, but not my job. Now, my needs are pretty simple so we make it financially so far, and I do love retirement. I'm busy, but I follow my own schedule.

Homerun Hatch Family News said...

O.K. Marcia on a happy note 60's are the new 40's and men now prefer women who have raised their children are out of the baby market. So I heard on some TV show.

As I am nowhere near retirement I say keep on working as long as your happy! I love my job but fussed all week about an unpaid workshop my principal e-mailed me about.

My husband said don't got. But the do gooder in me couldn't skip out.

Anonymous said...

Marcia - I don't know where to start. I retired from teaching at 55 years because of the reasons Olga mentioned. I have absolutely loved retirement - I started out worried about money and worked at about 10 different jobs until I found my place. I loved trying out different jobs, learning them and leaving them when I decided that wasn't what I wanted to do. After i realized that I wasn't going to starve to death, I began doing just the things I love. Now I do storytelling, writing, lead workshops and photography. I just follow the lead in any one of these and am having the most glorious time! If I'd known retirement was so much fun, I wouldn't have complained about work all those years. Find your passion and go for it. There is a whole new world to explore. You'll love it and find a 100 things to do. Thanks for the thought provoking post.
Mary B

Arkansas Patti said...

I worked happily for 48 years. However, I believe the higher we climb the ladder, more annoying things come into our work life like redundant meetings,endless reports,etc. It seems like we are spending more time preparing to work than actually working.
Retirement is wonderful. It is the complete freedom to do what you can afford, when you want and not have to cram everything into a weekend. Don't fear it, embrace it. Wish I had done it earlier.

Friko said...

Sorry, I don't know about singles bars either, but can't you just go to any bar to have ad drink? If you feel like it?

The thing I resent most about retirement is purely in my head: I resent having become irrelevant in the great scheme of things. Although the 'grey pound' is commerce's aim as much as a young person's pound, every ad is aimed at the 'workers'. They're after my vote, my money, my charitable support but not my wisdom or experience, damn them.

Living where I live I can settle down to tea and cakes, fund raiser coffee mornings, and gossip; and all the while go quietly insane.

Or I could rave and rant in a blog.

Friko said...

I forgot to ask, you heard Joan Baez singing through your window? Live?

marciamayo said...

Friko, yes I heard her live. However, she wasn't singing to me. She was singing to paying customers across the street at the Atlanta Botanical Garden where they have outdoor concerts in the summer. I could hear her when the wind was blowing the right way.

I loved what you said in: Living where I live I can settle down to tea and cakes, fund raiser coffee mornings, and gossip; and all the while go quietly insane.

That's what I'm afraid of, although I do have to admit I kind of like gossip.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh keep the banner of writing flying, you will be a star, in whatever form that takes. Attend workshops, give workshops, write, write, play Scrabble to keep sharp, adore the grandchildren. Life just fills up you know? I can't keep enough time open to cram it all in. And yes I work part time but I honestly don't worry about money anymore. There is very little but my needs are very simple now, we don't take that into account.

Wisewebwoman said...

Joan, you heard OMG Joan????????
I'm sick positively SICK, I tell you!

Cile said...

I share your fear of retirement, Marcia. Oddly it should be the money that worries me but it is the interaction that I have to have. I feel if I retired I would list away into space! My taking a cut in pay and a lower position was what I now refer to as my retirement. So I am retired - while still employed. I have to pay attention to not fall into the habit of being too "helpful". All of this is very contrary to my work ethic and I think it is a shame in some ways for me and my employer but, from where I sit, there has yet to be developed a place in the scheme of things for the older worker. It is sad but true. No amount of work I could do in that situation would alter that. What work I do, I try and to do with integrity and I'm thankful for the opportunity of it.

I am trying to channel that work ethic I have nurtured over the past 45 years into projects that would be of different value for my life than just making money. I'm getting nowhere faster than I thought possible for a woman my age!....I'm hoping this is an incubation period; that I'm in a cocoon and not a body bag!

Thanks for sharing so much of your thinking on this matter. I feel less alone in pondering these things.

marciamayo said...

WWW and NM, thanks for your thoughts and support. NW, I like the idea of being retired while still working - baby steps.

Jean said...

I've been happily, happily, oh, so happily retired for six years. And I, too, felt the fears you're now facing. I felt as if retirement meant the last step before death; I resented younger teachers asking me when I was going to retire; I worried I wouldn't be able to fill up my days; I knew I'd miss so many of my work colleagues...I'd pretty much devoted 36 years of my life, 9 months a year plus many summer weeks, preparing lesson plans, grading essays, trying to keep my classes interesting. I feared life would have no meaning without teaching. Wrong! I'm busy every day. I have plenty of hobbies (although keeping my house as clean as I did while working isn't one of them). The first year I retired, I felt left out when school started that September. By October I'd gotten over that feeling and haven't looked back. I don't know what I'd do if I were told I had to go back to teaching. Shoot myself, maybe. I loved it while I did it, but that's behind me now.

ygbsmgc said...

Another post from the only guy who appears to read your blog, I define retirement as betting that you won't live long enough to run out of money. That is why I will be working part time forever. By the way I will be retired for one day on the first of October 2010.

marciamayo said...

George, is that when you granddaughter is due to arrive?

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