Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rehearsal for Retirement

When I woke, I had every intention of cycling with friends in the afternoon. Instead I found myself drawn to Schmitz Park. How could I refuse?
Summer is that way. I set a plan only to find myself altering course throughout the day. Whatever it is that I end up doing tends to be different, but usually equally rewarding.

I am a college instructor, my annual schedule dictated by an academic calendar. As the years pass each summer becomes a rehearsal for retirement.

Most of us spend our working days waking to an alarm, trudging off to work, coming home. A routine set in stone. Weekends are filled with household chores and family obligations. Before we know it the kids are grown, the house is empty, and we find ourselves at retirement age wondering how to manage the shift from days controlled by structure to the absence of all routine.
I wonder how I will construct my own retirement when the time arrives, how tight I will plan in order to convince myself I've accomplished something each day. I hear retired friends complain of being terribly busy but never getting anything done, and I can relate having experienced a touch of this phenomenon during past summer breaks. But still I resist a tightly structured To Do list - for summer break or retirement.

I prefer a daily, weekly, year-round consistent To Do list, a list that includes only four items: write, read, exercise, spend time with loved ones. If I manage to include each of these activities every day, life is rich and full.
When a plan goes sideways, when I take my daughter's dog to Schmitz Park and leave my bike at home, I'm okay. More than okay. I rejoice the flexibility that allows me the joy of being alone in the woods with a happy dog.

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