“Aren’t you retired?” my former student asked as we stopped to chat in the grocery store. In my mind, I translated his question. “You look really old – why are you STILL working?” LOL
O.k., maybe that wasn’t exactly what he was thinking. But I lifted my chin and answered the question. “No, I haven’t retired. I’ve refocused.” . He mulled that over in his mind, told me he liked it, and we exchanged updates on our lives.
Retirement means different things to different people. For many, it’s a chance to do something new. For others, it’s an excuse to do nothing.
How old is too old? I struggle with this concept, because age discrimination does exist in our society. When people ask how old I am, I tell them I’ll divulge that information when I am no longer working. I’ve seen it happen that once people know how old you are, they treat you differently, and I don’t think I’m ready for that.
Are there advantages to being old? Absolutely! Senior discounts, people asking if they can help you lift the kitty litter into your cart, and the occasional young person who opens the door with a smile to let me go before him. But with age also comes a kind of wisdom that can only be taught by life and its experiences. We are all in the process of gaining this. As the road behind us becomes longer, it gets easier to look back and see how each experience has taught us something new, and how they have all combined to give us a particular perspective on life that is uniquely our own.
So…..why have I decided to refocus rather than retire?
For me, the question is: at what age are we to no longer try to make a difference? A wise book tells us, “….they will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92) And in that book I don’t see the word “retirement”. I see the concept of still bearing fruit, which might be as simple as getting together with friends and sharing a coffee and encouragement. It might be continuing to work in a field that you have loved and are now at the place where you can help to mentor others. It might be sitting in your chair and praying for others. Maybe you can sew, knit, crochet, or have another craft that you work on all year to put in a child’s Christmas box. I have a friend whose mission is to adopt senior cocker spaniels, giving them a good home for their own “retirement years”. Another friend tends plants in a public place to provide beauty for those who come to visit.
All of these people, to me, have refocused. They have found something worthwhile to do that fits with their current life season and are engaging in the pursuit of that activity. Their lives have purpose and meaning, which is what we all crave. Use whatever talent God has given until you can do it no longer. Retirement is for heaven.