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.