Retirement (An Essay)

Retirement for me has always been something to look forward to in the future. When you are busy establishing a career, in my case a teaching career, and raising a family, retirement has always been in the distant future. But before you blink, that time of your life is here. After a very rewarding thirty-five year teaching career, I am there. 2015 was the year I retired.

2015-11-21 10.12.43So what is retirement? What does it mean? Dictonary.com defines the word retire as “to withdraw, or go away or apart, to a place of privacy, shelter, or seclusion.” Until now, that is how I have typically viewed retirement. I’ve always seen retirement as the time to relax, to sleep in, to have leisurely mornings enjoying a cup of coffee and, to do as little as possible. It was a time to retreat from the world of work and just be. Now that I am there, I no longer understand retirement to be that. Retirement is a new beginning. It is the beginning of a new journey. In the book, How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free it is written, “Retirement is the beginning of life, not the end.” That holds true for me. M. K. Soni says, “Retire from work, but not from life.” Or, as an unknown author put it, “Life begins at retirement”.   That is what retirement is for me.

Retirement is the time to start living life the way God or the Universe intended.  It is the time in life when a person has the time to do the things they have always had on their “bucket list.”   It is the time when a person can pursue their passions or when a person can chase their dreams. As Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, lecturer, and poet, so eloquently stated, “Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.” 
 Retirement is when you have the time to “make your dreams come true.”

So what are some of my dreams? Although my dreams have not been limited to just one, there are two main passions that I have. The first is travelling. I love to explore and experience this big, beautiful planet of ours. I love to experience the food and culture of the diverse world in which we live. Even though I have done some of this already, I see retirement as a time to do more. In fact, as a start to my retirement my wife and I took a trip with friends to Europe, specifically Greece, Italy and France. Ever since reading about Pompeii in elementary school, seeing Pompeii has been on my “bucket list”. Furthermore, since I have taught about the Great War of 1914 – 1918 and World War II, I have longed to visit the numerous world war sites in France and Belgium. In October my wife and I did just that.

Another passion I have is reading. In retirement I finally have some time to read the many fiction and non-fiction books that I have intended to read for years. Moreover, because of my passion for reading, I have also had a desire to write. Now that I have more time in retirement I intend to do some writing, and hopefully become be a published author. Since I love teaching, and I am no longer a classroom teacher, I see writing as an opportunity to continue to teach. I’ll still be teaching but in a new way. Even more exciting is I will reach more “students” as my writing will hopefully reach many more people. Starting up this blog is the start of that writing career.

During an interview with PBS’s Frontline, Howard Salzman says, “Retirement is a time to make the inner journey and come face to face with your flaws, failures, prejudices, and all the factors that generate thoughts of unhappiness. Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you and the joy that comes when you cast out all the negative elements that cause confusion and turmoil in your mind and allow serenity to prevail.”

Howard Salzman reflects perfectly another way to describe retirement. Retirement is a time to reflect back upon my life as a teacher, as a parent and as a member of the human race. It is a time to reflect upon my successes and my failings as an educator. It is a time to reflect upon my children’s lives to see how my parenting has shaped them and made them the people that they are. Retirement is a time for me to carefully observe the world around me and to seek out its beauty. It is so easy to see all the ugliness of the world, especially when the news world focuses on its ugliness. I have always believed that there is way more good in our world than what the media reports. It is so easy to regard the planet as “going to hell” if that is all a person focuses on. When you “google” good news stories you get approximately 482,000,000 results. But when you “google” bad news stories you get approximately about 351,000,000 results. That means there are still more good news stories than bad thus supporting my belief that the world has more good than bad. Retirement is a time to discover the good in this world.

So to retire is not an act of withdrawing, or going into seclusion, but I suppose it could be. Retirement is a time to begin another journey in life. It is a time to pursue one’s dreams and passions. It is a time to reflect upon the life lived so far, and to finally experience the beauty and diversity of this wonderful planet.   Retirement is not the end of life. It is the beginning of the best time of your life. I intend to start living life to its fullest now that I don’t have to work to live.

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