Having recently retired from the practice of law after enduring it for thirty-nine years, I am regularly asked how I am adjusting to the new experience. Oddly it required some time before I was able to formulate a response but generally the blanket answer I now give is that retirement is very satisfactory indeed. In fact I have accommodated the change of pace and occupation so well that I can’t imagine a more superlative state of being at this stage of my life.
Naturally this desirable adventure is entirely unique and it has therefore regularly given me pause for thought. I have reflected upon my fortune many times and from many perspectives. For one thing retirement encompasses more than my working career; I have retired from a former theatre of life. The geography has entirely changed. From the time I entered high school I have been perpetually preoccupied with performance; it insinuated every aspect of my being. The engrossment was so obsessive that it was nothing for me to have forfeited any number of normal human considerations for the cause of my profitable investment. I thought nothing of working deep into the middle of the night and subsequently surviving on a mere several hours of sleep for the rest of the day; or forgoing the pleasure of social interaction (whether with family or friends) if it interfered with what I knew to be necessary study or work time; or driving myself for seven days of the week, fifty-two weeks of the year, year after year with never a holiday. I fully accept that the force behind the devotion was more than a passion for success; probably it was a fear of being overtaken by failure for I likewise acknowledge that anything I have accomplished is very much the product of perseverance and has less to do with talent. Less this sounds puffed-up let me add that while I have always been happy with what I have achieved in life I am the first to admit that at best I am a big fish in a little pond. No matter, the effort in getting there was for me no less demanding and I can assure you I’m in no rush to repeat it. I am quite happy to let it go.
Retirement is as much a convenient accident of my life as everything else has been. I wouldn’t for example have had the wherewithal to retire if it were not for my serendipitous alliance with my partner in crime for the past twenty years. As unpropitious as it sounds even my former profligacy affords many of the material benefits which are collateral to our companionship. As such I continue to ride the wave. Certainly I am aware that planning and restraint are part of the current scene but once again these apparent compromises have been accomplished effortlessly and often more speedily than imaginable.
I regularly remind myself of what my physician said following my open-heart surgery seven years ago, “We didn’t think you’d get off the table!” That has the salubrious effect of repelling any hesitancy I might have about making a career of inactivity. Of course I’m joking; I haven’t any intention of becoming or inclination to be inactive. While I am open to the possibility of employment on almost any level (my former ambition was to be a chain-smoking dishwasher in Key West while living in a concrete condo to keep the terminates at bay) I suspect the reality is that working for a living will never happen again. What is more likely is that I shall become absorbed in reading and writing, not an altogether uncommon experience for those who have retired. Until then I continue to relish the privilege of retirement. I have even sought to purify this rarefied atmosphere by abandoning any other undertakings which might qualify or taint it. In some instances the retractions have been elective (because they no longer advance my purpose) and in others mandatory (because I plan to be out of the country fairly extensively).
The removal of additives and impurities from my life has undoubtedly been helped along by the recent renovation on almost every front of my existence. Virtually everything has changed. The office building was sold; my law practice was sold; I retired from employment; the house was sold; we moved into a small apartment; many of our valuable personal effects were auctioned and sold; I bought a new car; we’ve arranged to winter in South Carolina. Even my father has died, his estate has been settled and my mother’s financial affairs have been entrusted to a professional advisor.
Now I delight in snapping my fingers at suit coats and polished leather shoes! Instead each morning I happily don whatever bit of commodious cotton I prefer. If I fashion a bit of glitter, so be it! And I can’t recall the last time I felt compelled to drive to the car wash at four o’clock in the morning to furnish myself the pleasure of driving my car.