Saturday, March 31, 2012

What's it Like to be Retired?

The easiest answer is: "The Good news is I'm retired and the bad news is I'm retired."

I noticed when I was a child, teenager and young adult that most males seemed to die within about 1 to 5 years of retirement. I wondered why that was. It had a lot to do then with men identifying completely with their careers. I knew that I would have to identify differently with my life if I wanted to retire effectively. I also read about characters like "Lazarus Long" in Science Fiction who was at least 3000 years old and saw no real reason that medical technology and diet combined with right living thinking and exercise couldn't extend lives that long either in my lifetime or eventually.

Ray Kurzweil predicts human immortality by 2045. Incidentally, he predicted the Internet 20 years before it happened. He is an inventor and engineer and MIT graduate about my age. He calls the bridge to human immortality the "Singularity". And like most Singularities at that point no one can predict the future with any certainty.

I myself, have already seen the early 2030s where a young group of males worldwide (mostly between the ages of around 10 to 30 years of age) decide to go online 24 hours a day waking and sleeping and this behavior so changes them from most people that conversation between normal people and "24 hour plugged in people might become difficult to completely impossible. So, I have already seen some of the signs of this incredible change in humanity. Do I think this is good? Let me ask you a different question. Did you think the 20th Century was all Good? Right I thought it was incredibly good and bad at the same time. Well. The 21st century will be defined the same way only it will be completely different. For example, they likelihood of another war like World War II is about zero. There could be a terrorist caused war like we have seen the last 11 years but a big war is unthinkable by all nations. In fact, if Iran got too crazy you might see Russia or China just nuke it completely out of existence before it polarized the world through to a nuclear war. So, we live in very different times than before in the 20th century. By the way I don't think that is going to happen, I just was trying to share just how different a Century we are now in from the 20th Century.

Anyway, I digress. Being retired is like a vacation that never ends. If you like vacations can you survive one that never ends? That appears to be the biggest question. If you can't survive a vacation that never ends maybe you shouldn't retire or maybe you should work part-time. The biggest thing is be sure to know yourself and your income and savings and can you survive if inflation is averaging 4% a year which is the overall average people tend to consider a 50 year average. If you can survive that financially then maybe you will be okay. And if you can survive not working and be okay and not get too bored then maybe you will be okay.

I was lucky  because I almost died from a Heart Virus at age 50. After thinking I might die for about 7 months my heart specialist said, "We finally figured out what was wrong with your heart! You had a heart virus and your heart has healed up and you can expect to live into your 70s or 80s or longer now if you take care of yourself. In my case I was pretty much in shock to hear this as my wife's stepmother and also her mother had died in the last two months and my wife had had a miscarriage thinking that I, her mother and her stepmother all were going to die. So, when I told her I was going to live she cried and said, "You have to stay retired now so I don't lose you too." I was so in shock I didn't really know what to say. I took a trip a few months later with my 10 year old daughter and my mother to Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and northern Italy. I met my son and his friend who were traveling all over Europe on a Eurail pass that they bought in the U.S. So I rented a 6 passenger motorhome in Munich, Germany and drove it to Oberamagau and we took a Gondola up and watched a guy jump off the mountain that was about my age in a paraglider. As he floated away on the winds I thought what a miracle it was to still be alive and to be watching someone about my age flying off in a paraglider with my Kids and my son's friend who had just gotten his degree in Physics from UCSC.

So, being retired was pretty amazing even though I had to believe I was going to die to get there. Any middle aged crazy of my 40s was replaced with, "I'm just so glad to be alive for myself and for everyone else! Every day I'm alive is Grace."

So, "What's it like to be retired?"
Every day now for me at least is "Grace"
I'm grateful every moment to still be alive!

So, almost dying made me aware of my mortality more and so I stopped trying to live like I was 25. I still have friends now in their 60s trying to pretend that they are still 25. One of them a few years ago broke his arm while skiing while chasing a young 25 year old female friend. He woke up after being knocked unconscious with a broken arm and a torn rotator cusp in his shoulder. I was going to go to Thailand to get it fixed (the rotator cusp) but his doctor said he thought it would heal on its own.

So, even though my friend thinks I shouldn't be riding a motorcycle still, I think he shouldn't still be chasing 25 year old girls like we used to before I got married when I was 26 in 1974. So, personally I think women are much more potentially dangerous than motorcycles so "To Each his own".

So, I guess the question remains, "Can you survive being retired?"
It is a simple question with a "Yes" or "No" answer.
But I would suggest you not retire until you can answer it or you might not survive retirement.
My own father only lasted 5 years in retirement before he was gone. So, this is serious business.

However, because I learned from how everyone I saw die early in their retirement I have now been
retired 13 years at age 63. Was this a good thing? This is what God did to my life so I'm here because it is useful to God. So, that is enough for me. But yes. It's been pretty amazing to be able to help friends and family with all sorts of things. I find it is mostly like being a fireman. I'm here to put out all kinds of fires in everyone's lives in my family and in the lives of any friends who ask for my help.

So, do I feel my life has value? Yes. I probably see the value of my life now more than any other time in my life. So, welcome to retirement!

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