No Need to Retire
Another old friend—a guy I’ve known since kindergarten—retired last week, although not to sit in a rocking chair. Instead, he is already out hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Sometimes, I think of how nice it would be to sit back, relax and leave the world of deadlines and other stress behind.
I felt a sharp twinge of angst earlier this year when a former co-worker (who I didn’t think was that old) told of planning to retire next spring and move to North Carolina to be closer to his wife’s family.
One reason I felt that way: a succession of work projects either got postponed or fizzled away, leaving our balance sheet in precarious condition.
After getting over that temporary blue funk, I had second thoughts. Particularly when I struggled to answer the question: if I stopped writing and editing, what exactly is it that I would do?
Ironically, several years ago I met the president of a college whose column I had read regularly in a statewide newspaper in Kentucky. He told of wanting to retire soon “so I can devote my time to writing.”
“Well,” I replied, “I’ve already got that one covered.”
Now, I understand wanting to slow down or change gears. Two boyhood friends who have retired in the past two years worked the assembly line at plants in Ohio. Those are the kind of jobs that are pretty doing once you reach the age of 60. Ditto for police officers and firefighters.
Called to Write
There are many reasons I keep going, starting with the fact that I feel called to do what I do—and I haven’t received any directives to quit.
The modern American retirement ideal may be to lay down at 55 and either do nothing or while away one’s days on the golf course. But I have no desire to lay around, since that seems like a prescription for boredom and lack of fulfillment. And, I never could play golf every well, so I don’t foresee myself making the seniors version of the PGA Tour.
Besides, when it comes to retirement, a number of people, including two men I have personal connections with keep me going.
One is Cec Murphey, co-author of former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands, and the multi-million-selling 90 Minutes in Heaven.
Now in his early 80s, Cec was still turning out three or four books a year in his late 70s. He has geared down his writing, teaching and speaking schedule lately, but he never saw his senior years as an excuse to idle away the hours.
Staying in Gear
The other is Stanley Tam, a neighbor down the street in my hometown in Lima, Ohio. I never knew him directly, but used to ride to school occasionally with his youngest daughter. Tam became famous for donating the majority of his company’s assets to a foundation that supported Christian missions.
One time I was interviewing the leader of a business mentoring organization for a national magazine story. When he brought up Tam’s name, I explained how I knew him. The leader told of running into Tam and asking if he wasn’t ready to retire at his age.
“Heck, no!” replied Tam, who kept running the company into his 90s. “I’m 85 and everybody wants to talk to me. If I retire and move to Florida, I’m just another old guy playing shuffleboard.”
I never could play shuffleboard either.