“Work is love made visible.”
My parents are ready for retirement. Finally, after fifty years of working they are prepared to enjoy the “rest of their lives”. Well, not so much. I’m convinced they are actually working more than they ever have in the past. My father can work up to fourteen hours in a day and often seven days a week as a small business owner. My mother works over-night twelve-hour shifts, often agreeing to additional days. They have both been eligible for retirement for several years, but simply struggle to make the final leap into at the very least, into semi-retirement.
As I look through some of the literature my parents and in-laws pass along, its clear that retirement can have some drawbacks. Loss of income, increased social isolation, and loss of identity. Who are you if you can’t define yourself by a career? Just think, how often do you greet someone with the question, what do you do for a living? Or describe an acquaintance by their profession? Work is so much more than a paycheck and a time-clock.
Here’s the thing, I don’t blame my parents, I often joke that I’m never retiring. I’ve even made comments to justify it. Living in Connecticut is simply too expensive or by the time we get to that age, the age limit will increase again. The truth is that I enjoy working. I enjoy getting up and going somewhere to do something that I love. Especially in a career that feels more like service than labor. When the goal is to help others help themselves or find safety for what may be the first time in a person’s life. It brings a satisfaction that the word “work” can never adequately express and I am positively changed by it. So, if I love what I do, then perhaps there’s no real ‘retirement’.
When I think of my parents and their reluctance to retire, I recognize where my beliefs about work originate. They may grumble and groan about the effects of aging, but they still both enjoy getting up and going to work. It inspires me to do the same and to be grateful I found a career I really love.