Category Archives: Retirement

Retire the Word Retirement



Retiring the Word Retirement

I listen to podcasts while I walk the dog and recently heard two different comments about retirement, not the concept but the word itself.  The podcast was the Ted Radio Hour show on Aging.  One commentator, Dan Buettner,  was describing his research into parts of the world where people live longer on average then the rest of the population. These pockets of longevity included Okinawa.  The researcher notes that in the Okinawan language there is no word for retirement as Americans think of it.  The closest they come is a term, eekeegai ( I apologize for my spelling…it is radio after all…)  that describes “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. Retirement in that sense is the ultimate reason for being.

A later segment in that same show featured the wonderful Chilean American novelist,  Isabelle Allende. she says that in her native tongue the word for retirement is “jubilation” related to the american term of the same name.  Retirement, her argument went, is something joyous.  It is the time when one has paid his/her  debts to society and can therefore enjoy life; it is a time to be celebrated.

When you think of the English term, it does not quite convey the same import or celebration. Consider the Wikiword definition of retire.  The first entry is the one traditionally associated with work,  “to stop working on a regular basis.” The subsequent definitions are a bit more off putting. They include to withdraw,  to remove from circulation ( e.g. old bank note are retired) , to retreat ( e.g. to retire the regiment),  and to draw back or away — to be aloof. ( he retired to the library.) Then there is my personal favorite, to make a play in baseball which results in the batter being out. This may be the only one that conveys any joy, although the joy would be for  the defensive team only.

In the spirit of creative solutions, perhaps we need a better term to describe the period after “one stops working on a regular basis. ” The encore career notion is gaining traction in some areas, but many people are unfamiliar with it. We seem to be stuck with retirement. Maybe that is why so many (including myself) are flunking retirement.

Flunking Retirement Celebrity Style

One of our holiday traditions is seeing some version of the Grateful Dead at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium.  As we watched Dead and Company this year it occurred to me that Bob Weir deserves a spot in the “Flunking Retirement” celebrity Hall of Fame.

Here you have a guy that had a tremendous reason to retire, when his Grateful Dead co-founder, Jerry Garcia died in 1995.  But the music would not be stopped and he continued  playing and touring with his own band Ratdog, The Other Ones, a group of former Dead players and then Further, a partnership with Phil Lesh, the Dead bass player.  This year during the 50th anniversary of the Dead, the players created yet another variant, Dead and Company, with younger , and some might say hipper, John Mayer at lead guitar. So at the age of 68, Bobby is going strong.

But like many other Boomers, Bobby has also parlayed his industry knowledge into an enterprise to support his passion. In 2011, he founded Tamalpais Research Institute, (TRI), a world class audio, video streaming and recording facility.  It provides the best sound experience possible and can emulate the acoustics of any music venue in the world.

“TRI was kind of built on the principle that it was going to be a fun place to be,” explains Weir on the TRI website, . “The ultimate playpen for a musician.”

So thank you, Bob for the encore career you have chosen.  It is perfect for you and all of us music lovers.

“Passing” retirement

There are those days in the San Francisco Bay area that are just too perfect for words.  This time of year, the air is cool and crisp and the Bay is a deep lapis blue .  It is on these mornings as I walk my dog in the Presidio and marvel at the beauty, that I wonder why I have done such a bad job retiring.

What is wrong with slowing down and smelling the roses?(Something I always try to do, by the way, and am often disappointed by the uninspiring aromas of some varieties, but I digress.) Although I love the puppy, there are days when I wish I didn’t have to do the hour long exercise walk with her.  After all, there are conference calls to attend to, emails to send, research to do. Nonetheless, I need to make sure the puppy gets her constitutional. As much as I start out begrudging the time,  often, as I get deeper into the woods and see the Golden Gate bridge in the distance rising out of the fog or glowing in the sunlight, I think, but for the dog, I wouldn’t be here. But for the dog I wouldn’t see a wonderful sunset or a coyote in the morning mist. But for the dog I wouldn’t be able to practice my best balance beam technique on the lovely  serpentine logs of Andy Goldsworthy ‘s wonderful installation.

As such, I guess I owe the puppy some thanks, for she is helping me appreciate my world.  I may still not have a passing grade in retirement, but she is helping me understand its allure.  Maybe one day I will get there…

Lucy and and Andy Goldworthy's logs

Lucy and and Andy Goldworthy’s logs

In the beginning….

…there was the Oxford English Dictionary. To retire originally meant to move to a position of safety and or relaxation.  One would “retire to he bedroom”, for example. In fact an archaic definition of retirement is “a secluded or private place.”

Retirement is now a modern concept of  “ceasing work “, but I don’t find that quite accurate.  Perhaps it does involve the termination of regular remunerative tasks for a long term employer, but it can also involve the exploration of new pursuits . That exploration process can require much effort and focus and yes, work. So, the “ceasing work” definition is really not applicable.

Clearly we need a new definition of retirement, and that is part of what I hope to discover through these posts.

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