Friday, 6 April 2018

Chapter 92 : Retirement : I am learning on the job

Dear Bob,      
You asked me, “What’s it like being retired.  What you should I do when I retire?”
I would love to help you but I can’t. I am retired and have absolutely no idea what retired people do.
I spent 5 years at Uni and the first 5 years of work learning how to work as a dentist. Perhaps after 10 years of retirement I will know how to be retired. It is like getting a driving license. After getting your license you learn how to drive.
I am retired not tired.  I look on retirement as a different phase I will go through. It will be different from what I expect but I plan on finding out about it, not retiring from life.
Bob, first you have to think about what you want other people to call you. A lot of people describe themselves by what they used to do.  Retired doctor, retired teacher, retired plumber or retired footballer.   Sometimes I go that way. I am a retired dentist.  Now I don’t want to be described by what I used to do. I prefer not to be called a retired dentist.
I used to be a dentist. They used to stop me in the cereal aisle of the supermarket, open their mouth and say, “What should I do about this tooth?” Now when I shop they expect me to get out of their way.
Bob, when retired you have to work out when to shave.  And what clothes to wear. Do you want to look like someone who has a job or someone who is retired?  What is today going to be?
Previously I had a routine for lunch. I always had lunch at the same time. I was predictable. Now I have to think about lunch. Footloose, fancy free and floundering.
Bob, you have to work out when to get up.  I don’t know if my alarm clock has also retired. I’ve never used it.  Now I have to work out when to get up. Or if.
Bob you have to work out what clothes to wear.  When working I had my certain clothes and shoes I walked to work. When I arrived I took off my walking shoes and clothes and put my work attire on. Now I am fancy free to wear anything anytime.  Freedom just another word for confused.
Bob, when retired you learn about your working life.
When I worked as a dentist all teeth are the same. As a dentist I never discriminated or preferred certain races or sexes. Now I cannot understand bias based on sex or race. It just completely perplexes me.
Nowadays before I have lunch I line everything up on the bench. I don’t start until everything is out in the right spot and ready.
When working I knew what I was going to do on Wednesday week at 3:00 pm.  Now in the morning I like to know what I am going to do at 2:30. I need to know my appointments for the day.
Bob, when working I was always assessed. When working I always had someone to tell me if I’d done a good job or not. I always had something to work on or to improve.  Now I have no idea how to succeed. How to do a good job. I have to mark myself. I give myself a mark for mowing the lawn or putting out the garbage. I did a good job. Next time I can put the bin further up the road away from the parked car.
Bob, you will need a reason for getting out of bed.  Some purpose or meaning to your life. At times I have thought nobody depends on me. Nobody needs me. Nobody cares.  If you can solve this then please tell me.
You could go the way a lot of people go.  Become a volunteer. Belong to an organization. You will receive a christmas card, sign the farewell card, be missed if you sleep in, get public holidays and weekends off and do something the community needs. You can go this way. You need to find an organization who needs you as much as you need them.
Bob, I have noticed how hobbies either expand or disappear.  Some hobbies were my escape or release from working. They have now disappeared.  Other hobbies have expanded. Be flexible and ready to adjust your life.
Bob, I still go on holiday. Retirement purportedly means you are on continuous holiday. No commitments. But I find I need a break from endless similar repetitive days.  Probably why so many retirees spend so much time travelling. When other retirees talk about their coming cruise I join in. Why not?
Bob, I don’t need to tell you, family and friends are important. I know you and you know that. You will see more of your family. I know for you that is not a problem.  You will no longer be able to avoid them. You can’t say, “I can’t do that. I have to go to work.  I’ve got some letters I need to finish.”
Bob, I will have to mention money. Do you have enough money to do everything you want to do?  Do what I do.  I alter my goals or aims to fit the money available.  My goal is to do what I can afford to do.
And now you are retired be happy. All your excuses have gone. You can’t complain about anything. Don’t be a grumpy old man.
And all your excuses have gone. I’ll organize my record collection when I retire. That excuse has gone. 
And get ready for people who say, “What do you do all day?
You can reply with, “I’m just as busy as ever.”
You may be but I am not as busy as ever. Life is easier.


  1. Published in the Mercury 6.4.2018

  2. The Mercury is a daily newspaper in Hobart, Tasmania
    It is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
    It has a circulation of 40-60,000.
    In 1964 Rupert Murdoch bought the Sunshine Advocate from my grandfather and stopped my father and grandfather from writing for the paper.