An old friend recently asked me that question or, rather, something similar: “Are you happy in your old age?” he asked. “Are you checking off items on your bucket list?”
Since I was pretty sure I understood what he intended to get at, I explained that happiness and bucket list are not categories I relate to but that I could take a stab at answering whether old age is going well, if it is satisfying to me.
Many people plan their retirement. Moving to a warmer climate is a common choice as is playing golf or tennis every day or, if they have the funds, traveling – some by RV who then make their homes for awhile wherever they happen to be.
I have a friend, a professional chef who, in his middle years, often said he was saving two things for his old age: mastering pastry cooking and learning to understand Wagner's music. I never had any old age goals, certainly not such interesting ones.
Since I was forced into retirement long before I was ready and had never given a moment's thought to what I would do when I stopped working, I've been playing it by ear these past ten years.
If I take seriously the dire predictions of retirement “experts” and “coaches” who (as far as I can tell when they email asking to be featured on TGB) mostly want to part people from their money, I'm headed for big trouble not to have availed myself of their help and direction.
Well, too late. I'm doing it on my own and it's working out nicely.
How lucky for me that I had already begun this blog when the axe fell on what became my final paid job or I might have flailed around. Time Goes By organizes my days, opens doors to interesting people and keeps my mind engaged with new ideas.
For several years it took up too much of my time but I've gradually been rearranging how I work so that I can enjoy other interests.
And there is something bigger too.
In these ten years, I have come to feel strongly that because I am healthy, free of such heavy responsibilities as family caregiving and with some fiscal prudence have no need for paid employment, I have an obligation to give something back.
To me, that is not so much a moral commitment, nor a duty or a burden. It is, instead, a longing to leave this planet a little bit better off than it otherwise would be. It is a sense that if I am taking up space here and am capable, I want to contribute.
When fully developed, hundreds of people will benefit. Their lives will be better than they would be without the Village and what's more exciting is that this is not a short-term or one-shot deal.
If this group does our job well, the Village will continue past our generation to that of our children, grandchildren and beyond. We will have left behind us something good and lasting.
So, getting back to the question at the top of the page, this – with the work on the Village – has become, possibly, the most gratifying time of my life. How lucky is that?
There have been other satisfying periods when I was younger but they were usually tinged with wanting something else or something more – a better job, higher salary, a bigger apartment or a boyfriend or husband.
Not this time. Now, the work itself – building a Village and the effort that goes into producing Time Goes By – along with some friends, good food and a few other personal interests keep me fulfilled.
No bucket lists here and although it may be semantics only, “happy” has always felt too lightweight and fleeting to bother with. Fulfilled works nicely for me and I'm working on contentment. That may take a while.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Plastic Janes