The idea of retirement, like for many people I suspect, has really kept me going through some of the more difficult periods of my professional career. The idea of staying home, and puttering around the house, and fishing when I want to. Wouldn't that be great! All those ideas are very appealing, and I know if I just keep going ,one day I'll get there and all that struggle will have been worth it.
I thought that until I started getting closer to the date when I can retire. The closer I get, the less appealing the idea of retirement becomes. I don't have to retire, but the only thing less appealing to me than retiring is the idea of continuing to work at what I do now. I enjoy my job, but I want to do something more meaningful before I head out to pasture.
I went to lunch a few years ago with a friend of mine that was coming to the same realization . . . he didn't want to retire, but he didn't want to do the same thing either. He asked me, "if you could do anything you wanted to do for the rest of your life, what would you do?" That single simple question changed everything. I knew the answer almost immediately.
That's how I wound up in seminary--I'm preparing for what I'm going to do next. God willing, I'll still be pretty young for retirement and could still have twenty or twenty-five years to dedicate to ministry. What form that ministry takes is still unknown, but as long as my health holds out, I'm going to dedicate my time to spreading the gospel. And just knowing that I'm going to continue to get up every day and go do something has really changed my attitude--I'm not finishing up my professional career, I'll be beginning a new chapter. And I'm bringing all those things I've learned along the way with me.
I think sometimes we make a mistake when we think about retirement and getting older. We see the reward at the end of our careers as not having to work anymore. Instead, perhaps we should look at it as an opportunity to do something else. I know a lot of really talented people who have retired. Many have gone on to encore careers doing something completely different from what they did during their professional years. They take all that education, and all that experience, and all that ability they've acquired over a lifetime, and they pile it into a brand new way of life for themselves. One of my friends, knowing absolutely nothing about the restaurant business, went into the restaurant business! I remember hearing people say, "why would he do something crazy risky like that when he could have just collected a pension and retired."
Believe me. I totally get it now.
I know a few people that have retired and just decided to enjoy a life of leisure--after the initial joy of sleeping in late wears off, they've found they have little to do and a lot of time not to do it in. They wind up wasting what could be the best and the most productive and rewarding years of their life. One of my former co-workers told me "one of the biggest mistakes I've made was retiring without thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life."
It's fun to think of that green pasture of retirement there on the horizon. Maybe it'll keep you going like it has me. But think about it. Just because you're drawing a pension doesn't mean you have to sit on the porch. Maybe you're not interested in an encore career, or starting a business, or going into ministry. I'm sure you could think of ways your unique skills and your unique knowledge could be used for good in a local charity for example. And if you think about it, I'm sure there's something you've always wanted to do. If you're not retired yet, start thinking--what would you need to do to start preparing for that transition now? And if you're already retired, what would you need to do to make that dream a reality right now?
What's stopping you?