I still don’t like the word “retirement” – a reply to Ronni Bennett

In response to Roni Bennett’s Time Goes By post of April 28, I still don’t like the word “retirement” which means, according to my American Heritage dictionary: “to withdraw as for rest or seclusion,” “to go to bed,” “to take out of use or circulation.” Clearly, I’m all for social security, pension plans and tax breaks. My argument is with the primary meanings that have, I think, a negative effect on all of us. As I said in my post of a few days ago, Why would anyone want to “retire?” –

As if we were no longer involved in life, no longer active, no longer contributing, as if we were finished …. That certainly isn’t true of the artists I’ve described in my posts. I suspect that it’s not true of many ‘retirees.’

I’m sorry if I gave you or anyone the impression that artists have a “superior creative vision and dedication.” When I referred to their “privileged position,” I meant they were lucky – they have something they want to do or keep doing. They don’t have to come up with it at a late date. I certainly wasn’t talking only about famous artists. My blog is sometimes about myself and other people who are no more famous than I am, which is to say, not at all, though I do try to tell the stories of artists we’ve all heard of  who have grown old and are still creating since I think age brings with it special characteristics that make the arts even more interesting and revelatory. Which is one of the themes of the blog.

I probably should have tried to define more clearly what I mean by “artist” a long time ago: the best definition I can think of is a person who is driven to make things: pots, symphonies, poems on napkins, quilts, et. al. I think we’re all a bit bedeviled by our need to define and describe people and I’d like to keep the idea of artist as open and vague with possibilities as I can.

One of the reasons I’m not famous – one of many – is that I worked at jobs to make a living for years. I’ve always felt guilty that some people are able to do that and make art – a novel, even an occasional poem. I wasn’t. I retired at 62 instead of 65 because I wanted, even at this late age, to write, and have been struggling ever since to do so. I have no intention of stopping, of “retiring,” until I’m unable to go on.

It’s interesting that the first person to read that particular post was my partner who found it exhilarating because, at the age of 65 and after a lifetime of work that included everything from real estate to managing a heating and sheet metal business, she became the part-time Hallmark card lady at our local Walgreen’s. She loves the job, the sorting and organizing and the day-to-day contact with people. Although I’ve never said this to her, she’s one of the best social workers I ever met. Many of her customers are older people who come in to get a hug and encouraging word from her. She doesn’t consider herself retired, and dislikes the idea almost as much as I do.

At any rate, I think I can say with confidence that I have no argument with Ronni’s conclusion:

Those who retire from their lifelong jobs do so for many reasons and are not any less dedicated to what matters to them than famous writers, musicians and painters. It just becomes something different.

My only argument is with the word “retirement,” especially when it places limits on what people do with their lives.

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One thought on “I still don’t like the word “retirement” – a reply to Ronni Bennett

  1. I just thought I’d leave a note. I read today’s blog, with some thoughts on retirement. I retired at 65 to to what I wanted to do , not what I had to do to live. Getting up on your own schedule, is number 1. 6 months shy of 50 years. Started bagging groceries at 15 and never looked back except wanting to retire and do the stuff now on my time table. Yes, I’m a retired old grocery guy, but not really retired at all, I still have all kinds of things going on in life. I can not seem to completely let go of the grocery business. I rep a glycerin soap product that supplements my income, my art commissions do OK, as far as I’m concerned. Then there is gardening, which I thoroughly enjoy too. Plus woodworking projects plus regular time for Bible study. A very important part of my day. Then yearly highway trips, I detest flying these days. And……………………….I just get windy. I’m not sure If I could add anything else, but who knows, I’ll check the box.

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