Why do you work? For money? For fame? Or, do you work because the work that you do gives your life meaning and purpose?
Unfortunately, for too many people, the economic state of the world is such that they have to work just to keep crumbs on the table and tatters on their back, so they never get the chance to contemplate these existential questions.
When I retired from government in 2012, after 50-plus years (if you consider that I began working full time around the time I was 12-years old, I’d been working for more than 55 years non-stop), I found that I could actually think about such things. While my monthly annuity doesn’t put me in the top one percent (those few who control most of the world’s wealth), along with my savings and investments, I am in a position where I actually don’t have to work in order to maintain my lifestyle at the same level as before retirement. Actually, with the free time, I can now do things I didn’t have time for before.
So, what do I do? Well, I write. Just as I’ve been doing for the past half century, only now, instead of writing early in the morning and late at night, I can write whenever I feel like it. Sometimes, I write for most of a day. I also consult – after fifty years you acquire skills that don’t exactly go away, and I feel a moral obligation to share them with the generation that follows me. Next month, I’ll be spending most of the month in the Mojave Desert working with military units preparing to deploy overseas. I’m also in demand as a speaker and lecturer. This past summer I ran a workshop on professional writing for the Rangel foreign affairs fellowship program at Howard University. I’m finding that these activities are taking up almost as much of my time as fulltime work did. Because I can say ‘no’, though, I do have control over which blocks of time get consumed. I, therefore, have time to spend getting to know my grandchildren – Sammie and Catie, and one more on the way.
Why, you might ask, does someone who worked for half a century, and who is financially secure, chose to still get up three or four days a week and leave home to work, or goes on trips of a week to a month to do many of the same things he did before as part of a daily grind? For starters, except for the demands on my time over which I had no control, I never thought of what I did as a ‘grind.’ Now that I have the ultimate say over what I do, where, and when – doing the things I’ve always done is not only rewarding, but fun. I don’t do it for the money – not, mind you, that the money’s bad. I do it for the satisfaction of knowing that I can still make a contribution. I do it because I have like seeing the results of my efforts – along with the contribution of others.
Oh, and one other thing – I love it because it gives me an excuse to leave the house periodically. For those of you looking at retirement in the near future, think about this. Being around your significant other 24/7 might sound nice, but the reality is different, and often frightening. It’s true what they say: ‘Absence does make the heart grow fonder.’