Retirement is a myth.
More accurately, it is not a myth but a lie. A lie we have come to believe and defend. A lie that we can’t wait to share with each other.
I believe there are only two human realities. You are either alive, or you are not alive. You either die, and your reality becomes transubstantiated, or you are given the grace to sing another unsung melody.
I know how ridiculous and simple this seems. It is so basic that it is probably not worth bothering with, but I can’t help it, because many of us spend our lives grinding away our existence, all in the hope of one day being retired and finally living our life on our own terms.
Retirement is a lie.
Our lives matter far more than that.
Our very complex molecular structure, which changes over, and over again, throughout our life, never stops. No matter how many times you cut yourself, your body will heal itself, until it can do it no longer. If you quit smoking at 30 or 70, no matter, your body will begin to regenerate and bless you with a better life, even if it’s for a few more days.
Change is the only constant in our life. One of the few things we can count on when we wake up every morning. We often ignore the reality that we walk on a planet that is beautifully and purposefully hurling in some unknown direction, for some undefined reason.
I am seventeen years deep into my profession, and I am twelve years away from retirement.
I was happy about this reality until I met up with some friends for some beer and celebration on the weekend.
I learned that a dear friend of mine was just fired without just cause. I didn’t even know that was possible. We were both shocked that nothing stops anybody for telling you to go away, for any reason.
What he found truly amazing was the fact that at that moment, he had felt like he died. There was absolutely no indication that his company was unhappy with his work. They gave him a big raise only a few short weeks before, and no one has ever complained to him about anything.
He was without employment without doing anything wrong. He did have the option of getting on his knees, and asking for forgiveness, or begging for a second chance. He was sitting there. Numb and beaten. A knife in his back.
He was dead. That was all that was to it.
The sun still rose the next day. He remained himself.
He was alive.
I began to reflect on where I am and where I want to go. I see clearly that twelve years is nothing more than a somewhat pleasant but a rather long prison sentence.
So it’s not quite as dramatic as a real prison sentence. I don’t have to worry about dropping the soap in the shower, and thankfully I don’t have any easy access pants. I would turtle too easily. Prison would destroy me.
To a lesser or greater extent, many of us find ourselves in a prison. A prison of our own making. Confined by our own thoughts. A life, turned to a prison of false realties.
Hamlet was right. What good are all the profits of this world, if we forget why we are alive in the first place.
And for what? For retirement?
I admire the William Wallace’s of this world. The ones who understand that every man dies, but not every man truly lives. They never complain. They have no intention to retire. They are focused and happy living. They do what they can, when they can, and if they can.
There is a young man, some ninety years young, that I often pass before I turn into my neighbourhood, and I see him cut his grass with a push lawnmower. He weeds his lawn by hand!
This incredible man and all people like him, have a true sense of being. A sense of being that manages to shine through all the noise. A heart that is not seduced by the idea of rest and retirement.
It’s time we let the lie go.
We can’t bank on retirement anyway.
We can’t bank on anything, really.
We can’t bank on tomorrow, or bank on our marriage, our kids health, or we can’t even be certain that our heart will make another beat.
Our body, as much as we like to pretend we control, does what it does, all on its own. It works despite us, and it works for us. If our liver was to suddenly stop cleaning all the toxins in our body, we would experience pain of such proportions that we would lose all desire to do anything.
The next little while will become a strange and unknown journey. It will be filled what Soren Kierkegaard calls Fear and Trembling.
I realize now, that I will not last twelve more years until retirement. Who knows when God needs another clown in heaven.
Don’t worry. I’m fine.
I still had my coffee this morning. I am still at work, ready to take on the day, but like Andy in Shawshank Redemption, I will be putting up a poster of Rita Hayworth later this morning, and I am going to start, whenever I can, and when the guards aren’t looking, to dig my way out.
A tunnel built with sweat, to a life I do not know, but one I desperately long for.
See you on the other side. Of living.