Noilly Prattle: Career Opportunity

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Career Opportunity

What's a guy to do with that dreaded bugaboo retirement? You know, you've had your nose attached firmly to the grindstone in the nine to five rat race. Up at the crack of dawn to the mellifluous tones (or more likely irritating buzz) of the alarm clock; drag your half asleep carcass out of bed and shuffle and stumble into the shower; dress and swallow a couple of cups of coffee; have some breakfast and off to the workplace to punch the clock by 8:30 or 9:00am. Then back home around 6:00pm, maybe a beer or two or a cocktail, have dinner, bath, TV and bed by 11:00pm—a routine so comfortably ingrained you can do it with your eyes closed and by rote. It's so comfortable that you might even prolong it beyond the usual retirement age. By then, the prospect of doing without that comfortable rut is scary. You ask yourself, what on earth am I going to do with all that time on my hands?

It's a question that I'd been ruminating about for a few years now. Last year, at the end of December I finally pulled the plug on the world of nine to five at about the same time I turned 70. I had worked for 19 years as an elementary school Art and English teacher in a private school. It was the longest position I ever held at one stretch and it had become a comfortable rut, but I was no longer doing anything new, just coasting and doing routine lessons and getting seriously bored. Still, the prospect of what-do-I-do-now? was daunting.

Seems to me, as I look back on the past couple of years, I set myself up in a way that I didn't have to make a conscious decision to “retire”. I wanted more free time for myself and to travel, but I didn't want to give up the security of a regular paycheck. The director of the school (who is a few years older than me) kept telling me that I could work as long as I wanted to (teaching is not physically taxing after all). I made a deal with him that I would work 2/3 of the year and take the winter term off with a salary cut that was generous enough.

That seemed to work out fine the first year and my contract was renewed for another year, but I was hearing rumors of grumbling about this deal from other teachers who apparently felt it was unfair. So, when I renewed the contract it was stipulated that it could not be renewed a third time. Thus was I faced with the dreaded full retirement. In other words, I had shot my self in the foot. I think that, unconsciously, I had set myself up to take the retirement decision out of my own hands. That way I was forced to deal with it.

Fortunately, in my checkered life and career paths, making transitions and being comfortable with the process are more or less second nature and are not unduly traumatic. So to cushion the initial phase of not having to follow the clock any longer we (road buddy and I) traveled to Prague for a winter of music and travel. I have blogged about that experience else-when on this blog. Before I left, I had also arranged to do some part time teaching at my former colleague and friend's English school for young learners upon my return from Europe in April of this year.

Now, for the first time in my life, I am free from the necessity of “making a living” and can do just about anything I want to do with my time—even waste it. But, I tend to be a frugal waste not want not type of guy—especially with time, of which I, like everyone else, am running out of. But, the thing is, as was brought to my attention recently, I could have another 10 or 20 or more years. I have a choice on how to live those years. I can either succumb to wasting away in front of the TV eating junk snacks and getting fat and infirm and increasingly unwell, or I can stay active physically and intellectually by working at it six days a week for the rest of my life—even God rested on the 7th day, after all.

This is my new career, taking care of my body and mind for the rest of my life. This means exercising: yoga, walking, weight training, swimming. It means travel, reading, a little work and writing. All in all, not a bad prescription for staying active and healthy for as long as possible. You could very well live into your 80s and even 90s. Whether you do it as an active and productive person or in a wheelchair or in a nursing home tied to one, or tied to a bed in one is a choice you can make. In other words, you can make a choice between living vigorously with an effort, or wasting away miserably by just letting yourself go.

To me, the choice is a no brainer. Just do it!


Anonymous said...

Good for you!!! A very noble 'career' change!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great new career! One I should take up on a part-time basis in addition to my full-time job. Enjoy every moment doing what you want to do! - Michelle