When should I retire? What will I do when I no longer have a job that requires me to get up, show up, and punch-in? This article from the Harvard Business Review questions whether we need or should want to retire at all. It goes on to present evidence that the happiest and longest-lived people are those who never really retire, and instead spend their later years pursuing their ikigai (pronounced “icky guy” and meaning, essentially, life dream or life purpose).
I’m not quite to retirement age yet, but I’m getting there faster than I care to admit. Fortunately, I have my retirement all planned out: quit the day job and spend all my time writing books, instead of just evenings and weekends. I started thinking this way a long time ago, because, as it happens, I have great role models for the second half of life in my mom and dad.
Upon retiring, Dad dove into his favorite pastime—wood-working. It’s something he’d done his whole life “on the side” of his engineering job. He didn’t do it for money; it was just a passion…and he’s good at it. He’s an incredibly talented craftsperson. He’s built custom-designed stage sets for my sister’s productions (she’s a drama queen and a drama teacher). He’s built several pieces of specialty furniture for my house and others, each with soft-close drawers and hidden storage and artful touches. And he even offered to build a fine outdoor home for my pampered pooch, but I declined this, as said pooch prefers the spot under my desk for her eighteen-hour days as personal foot-warmer.
My mother, on the other hand, has taken retirement to a whole new level. She learned two brand-new skills in her “dotage”: computer-aided embroidery and digital logo design, and combined them into a business she’s been successfully running for a couple decades now. Last Christmas, while we were trying to have a family holiday, she was constantly fielding phone calls from customers with last-minute embroidered gift requests. Thankfully, she told them all she was closed until New Year’s!
What can I tell you about my parents’ lives? Are they harried and hurried and worn out from their post-retirement-age activities? Heck no. Dad will be 83 this month, and Mom will kill me for telling you all that she’ll soon be 76. Both are happy, healthy, and energetic people, with all their wits about them. They travel, entertain, attend theater and concerts, and spend boatloads of time with the grandchildren. Rocking on the porch makes up a very small part of their daily routine. They are who I want to be when I grow up. Or grow old. Or whatever you want to call life past 65. But whatever you call it, don’t call it dull, boring, or RETIRED!