Working in Retirement
Just before I retired…maybe six months before, the Navy provided an opportunity to attend a retirement course…a week long course. All these years of working and I naively thought that this course was how to extricate myself from the work environment while, in fact, the course was intended to teach us, the senior executives, how to find new work after retirement from Government service. You know…it was really all about a life after death or that is how it seemed at the time. Now how stupid can one guy be….imagine me believing that the government was going to train me how to have fun…at least that is what I thought.
In effect the course was about what our careers could be in the private sector after our career in Government service ended. I can remember the first day, when the instructor asked each of us what we wanted out of this course and what our objectives were for the future. As I was still harboring my original thoughts at this point and I knew what I wanted from the future, I raised my hand immediately….and because of my apparent enthusiasm, the lecturer anticipated a meaningful and helpful response from me. And why not….for we were all members of the Senior Executive Service, an elite cadre of mangers in the Federal Government always ready with the correct answer. And that is exactly what he did not get from me, for I blurted out that I wanted to have “Fun”. Now, I am sure that is exactly what he did not want to hear at that moment, for as he continued around the table, my colleagues all responded with issues dealing with their acquiring positions in the private sector and concerns with both salary and responsibility in future positions in the private sector.
As I look back on the last years of working, I did ruminate about having fun in the retirement years, but there was also some reflection on working after my retirement. One of the pressures I experienced about working after retirement was related to the fact that men didn’t want to admit that they stop working …if you had something to contribute then you should be working, maybe to prove that you still have value to contribute in a business world. These thoughts of working took the form of maybe being a consultant in the field in which I had been practicing, but who in their right mind would pay me to do that work or for that matter pay me to do any work.
I even thought about starting a company in the technology field…it was still early in evolution of the computer technology industry and I was continuing to enjoy learning all I could about computers. But in fact, the thought of more responsibility and with more time to devote to such a venture, that idea soon faded. I even considered setting up a lawn cutting business…I could be outdoors, enjoying the air, the sky and all the green. But then again I hate to cut lawns…especially mine, and I was not going to hire someone to mow my lawn, while I searched for other lawns to cut.
But it seemed that whatever idea for work that I had, there seemed to be more reasons not to pursue that line of work then there were to pursue it into a business. So what was the underlying force…was it possibly the fact that when someone “retires” and here I am referring to men more specifically than women, that it is difficult to admit that you are “just not working”. We men may feel that we are giving up our “manhood” if we just stop working...I may no longer be interesting or capable of being informed on the events of the world. And maybe that is correct, certainly we may believe that we are perceived by others as less important or less significant.
It did not take me long to get beyond that issue...I was happy not to be working...isn’t that what all people talk about when they are working...I have often heard people comment that they cannot wait for retirement and that means to me that you do not have to work. I can remember one instance at a meeting of a government executives professional society...I was asked “What am I doing now?” having told them of my retirement from government service. When I responded that I was not working at all, the party I was conversing with soon lost all interest in discussing issues with me...since I would not have anything informative to offer during the discussion.
I would never make that mistake again...not in that venue. I heretofore represent my position as a “consultant to industry”....and quite magically I now have something to offer any discussion. In fact, I even carry “business cards” to reflect my position in my chosen field of endeavor. This is surely not always the case, but who would want to leave it to chance. Well maybe as we think or actually are perceived by others, we often see ourselves in the very same light. As I indicated earlier, I was able to become clear of that issue and readily admit retirement to most of the world, while maybe not fully accepting it myself.
For many years I have continued to attend and participate in technical meeting and presentations concerning information technology as presented by associations representing the industry or even by individual corporations. Part of that involvement in these meetings was my need to stay active technically and a more significant issue was to be able to continue learning. This participation has declined somewhat because of the rapidly changing technology and my own inability to remain current (especially since I am not working actively in the field).
So what has retirement transformed into for me...well, being involved with my grandchildren, of course that was always a high priority for me in retirement and that has remained the case. But they are growing up and as teenagers their “need” for my presence will diminish as they engage new and different interests, but certainly I know that their love will always be there. I will continue to stand on the sidelines and watch them grow and develop into adulthood. As their day-to-day involvement with me diminishes, I will concentrate on expanding my current interests and maybe even developing new areas to “play”.
Travel has been a major interest to Lila and I since retirement and we have traveled extensively to each of the seven continents. These trips have been exciting, educational and stimulating both physically and emotionally. The events of September 11th, 2001 have certainly proved frightening and will impact traveling as much as we did in the past few years. Whether this will change for the positive in the future is anybody’s guess, but we know it will never be the same again.
My feelings about specific countries and locations around the globe, as they have been affected by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., will no doubt be forever tarnished because of the uncertainty of world events and/or of the local vulnerability that these countries may represent with regard to terrorist activities on their soil. In any event, traveling for us in the future will be made with a more careful assessment of our safety and comfort.
For the last four or five years I have been writing about trips and sending these “reports” to friends and families to read. As the reports have become larger because of my desire to impart more information to the reader, email as a means of dissemination has become more difficult. More recently, I have decided to purchase my own web site domain and create a web site to circulate the travel reports and other writings, such as this paper. This effort has served me in two ways...one, it has provided me with a focus for the papers that I write and second, it has opened yet a new opportunity for me to learn within this ever expanding world of computer technology.
Additionally, exercise and taking good care of ourselves is also an important part of our life’s plan. Lila and I exercise regularly and look to not only cardiovascular and strength building exercises, but also to improving our muscle flexibility and range of motion. Hopefully, this should keep us able and fit for the complex years that lie ahead.
In any event I cannot begin to explain the fun that I have experienced in retirement and the expectation that it has provided for an enjoyable future that is yet to come. Having hope and anticipation for the future provides both the incentive and excitement to pursue new interests and continue with those interests that we have currently. So in addition to our regular activities, which seem to keep us very busy, this picture shows me sitting in my “office”, where I am most every day. Here, I have a cup of coffee, while I read and concentrate on some of the important issues of the day. The local Starbucks coffee shop generally provides me a convenient office where ever I am.