I retired last October and sometimes I feel like this has been one long weekend. I get up in the morning when I want to. I put on my sweats, make some tea and then read for as long as I feel like. So far so good. The day stretches out before me and I usually have no idea what I’m going to do. There are the daily chores like cleaning and laundry and sometimes we need to go shopping. I can take a swim or go to the recreation center and work out. Maybe read some more in the afternoon and take a nap. The problem is, it’s going to be one hell of a long weekend. Shouldn’t I be doing something else, something more meaningful, perhaps?
Throughout my life, the weekends have been respite and recovery from the week. I guess I could make the case that retirement is rest and recovery from a life time of doing what others wanted me to do. I started school at age 5 and since that time I’ve either been in school, been in the Army or have been working. So now at the age of 62 I can do pretty much whatever I want. But after all the doing for others, much of the time I don’t know what I want. Well, here’s what I’ve figured out so far, “Make your best guess and then go for it.”
I’ve dreamed of being a writer for many years. I used to imagine myself traveling the world as a merchant seaman like Joseph Conrad or Jack London. Working on the ship all day and at night when the others are drinking and playing cards, I’d be lying on my bunk writing novels. Or like Aldous Huxley or Herman Hesse, going to my villa in the mountains of Italy, writing all morning and then strolling down into the village for a drink, maybe visit with the locals. I could give many more examples of the romance of the writers life because I have read about many great authors. But what I’ve discovered is I want to live like a famous author, I just don’t want to have to write.
One of my elderly clients was a writer and a filmmaker of some success. I often talked to him about writing and my struggles with it. One day he asked me, “Do you know what the definition of a writer is?” I thought I knew the answer, but played into his little game. “No what?” He answered, “It’s a person who writes.” Yogi Berra couldn’t have said it any better. Sometimes the truth is very simple and at the same time very profound.
So one of the activities of meaning I am going to engage in during this long weekend is writing. Not for fame or fortune, but so that I can honestly answer the question “What do you do?” with the response, “I’m a writer.”