Last November, for my 59th birthday, I met a long-time friend, Preston*, at my gym. For years I made it a habit to visit my gym on my birthday. Even though I’ve changed gyms over the years, I hadn’t been to a gym on my birthday since 2019. So this was a refreshing change. Preston had turned 55 the previous July and – as we conversed about life and related topics – the subject of retirement arose. Like me (and millions of others across the globe), Preston has worked most of his adult life. He did what’s expected of so many people – especially men – in our society: he attended college, found a good job, got married and had kids. His wife went on maternity leave shortly before giving birth to their daughter some two decades ago and never returned to work. Thus, Preston – like millions of men – continued working.
Prior to meeting at my gym last November he’d said something that surprised me, yet to which I could relate. “I’m tired of working so hard.”
It was ironic because the same feelings had been rumbling around in my mind over the previous months. An uncle told me he’d retired in 2002 at the age of 62 simply because he was tired of working. Even though he didn’t get the most out of his Social Security, he simply had become weary of the labor grind and therefore, was willing to take the risk of living a more modest life.
My father had essentially been forced to retire at 62 in 1995, but my mother managed to retire at 70 in 2003. My folks managed to make the most of their golden years – my father dived full-time into genealogical research, and my mother spent hours reading and doing crossword puzzles. They didn’t travel or go out dancing; they didn’t join any clubs to make a bevy of new friends. They spent their remaining time on Earth living simply and quietly.
Whenever it’s my turn to retire, I’m certain I’ll spend my time doing what I love to do: reading and writing. I’d love to travel, but that’s still a dream.
Right now I’m trying desperately to find a job within my chosen profession – technical writing – but I’m not having much luck. Since the first of this year I have literally applied to more than 100 jobs. If I actually receive a response, it’s usually a no or the position has been closed. And even those are rare. In the state of Texas, the unemployment rate is roughly 4%, lower than most anywhere else in the country. I’m starting to get the impression my age is a factor. A friend tells me I’m just being paranoid, but I know age discrimination – though illegal – is a reality in the American work force.
But right now the U.S. government is mired in an impasse over the debt limit. As usual it’s a battle between political ideologies, and neither side seems willing to concede. And, as usual, average Americans like The Chief are caught in the mud fight.
I don’t need a palatial beachfront estate with a 6-car garage to be happy. I don’t need billions in stock or hard cash to feel content. I just need to make a basic and decent living. My freelance writing fell flat after the COVID-19 pandemic and hasn’t recovered. A friend suggested I try to be an Uber driver, but I don’t have a 4-door vehicle and I’m bad at directions. I think I’m too old for porn, so I won’t even try – again. Yet I’m not too proud to work and don’t like being idle anyway.
Yet I have to concede I’m tired. Decades ago I recall my father saying he no longer really cared for being praised for his work; he wanted to be rewarded monetarily. The bank where I used to work often gave out perfect attendance awards and various other accolades that ultimately weren’t worth the paper on which they were printed. Now I know what my father meant.