Sunday, November 1, 2009

Random thoughts about work and retirement

Three experiences this week got me thinking about my relationship to the world of work now that I am retired from the paid work force. One experience was very positive, the other disconcerting, and the third downright depressing.

First, the positive. I went to a meeting of the Community College of Philadephia Women’s Center Advisory Board. Although I no longer want to teach, I believe very much in the mission of the College and want to maintain a connection. And as the founding mother, the connection that matters is the Women’s Studies program.

I really enjoyed seeing some of my former colleagues. When I would go to meetings like this during my teaching years, I was often in a state of exhaustion and usually surreptitiously grading papers during the meeting. No more!

I left with a good feeling about the College and relief that I was no longer working there. I had always wanted to leave before total burn-out and when I saw signs of incipient burn-out, I got out. Of course, maybe I had a full-fledged case and just didn’t realize it.

Next, the disconcerting. I was downtown at rush hour watching the work force streaming out of the office buildings. In all likelihood, I will never again be part of the paid work force. This was my choice and I am engaged in meaningful work. (It’s easy to find all kinds of interesting projects if you are not interested in getting paid!) So why was I so thrown off balance? Intimations of mortality I guess.

Now the really depressing. A few days ago I attended the funeral of the brother of a good friend. He had just retired at the age of 67 and was looking forward to enjoying his retirement years. When he didn’t show up for his retirement dinner, two of his children went to look for him and found him dead, apparently from a stroke. If I had any lingering doubts about the wisdom of retirement, this wiped them out.

People who can’t think of anything they would rather do than continue at their jobs, should of course continue to work. But for those of us who long for more time to read, to write, to travel, to tend our gardens, to work for a cause, to follow our passion whatever it might lead, we should not delay (Assuming it’s economically possible.)

To paraphrase one of my favorite poets:

If we had world enough and time,
This ceaseless toil would be no crime…..

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near

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