My Kind of Retirement

dream life
Deborah Paul spent 35 years in the workforce—including a stint as a grade school teacher at the age of 21, and eventually becoming the editorial director of several magazines—before she started to retire. In a recent column for Indianapolis Monthly, Paul describes how she responds to the annoying refrain of “What do you do?” now that she’s no longer working full-time. Her answer is, as you may have anticipated, whatever the hell she wants to do.

I have not joined a gym, but I take daily walks, preferably outside. Even without stressful business on one’s mind, nature has a way of setting things straight. I used to swim before going to the office, as early as 6 a.m., or squeeze in a workout over my lunch hour. A lengthy stroll, with no set beginning or end, is a luxury. I’ve read more novels, folded more laundry, watched the occasional episode of Dr. Phil, and revisited some favorite movies. Remember The First Wives Club, Clueless, and Overboard? They don’t make them like that anymore, especially on rainy afternoons.

If retirement sounds lonely, well, it can be. Absent constant contact with workmates, one tends to form relationships with whomever is around. I have not resorted to telling my troubles to the supermarket clerk, but I got to know the fellow who directs traffic at my neighborhood McDonald’s so well, I gave him $20 for Christmas. When your pace is leisurely, you’d be surprised at the lovely people you meet.

What I haven’t done but planned to are organize a trunk of family photos, compile my mother’s cherished recipes, bake pies, foster a senior pet, line the bathroom drawers, and learn to use Apple TV. (I did join Facebook, which I despise for its insipid premise but can’t figure out how to disconnect.)

Sometimes her day is full, and sometimes she does nothing at all. Sometimes she decides she wants to do some of the work she used to do so she writes columns about how lucky she is to have the kind of retirement where she has the choice to do lots of things or diddly-squat. Deborah Paul seems like she’s living my dream retirement, and if we’re setting goals, I’d like to have something similar one day.

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