Thinking About Retiring

“Ginger was only two years older than you when she died.”

I was startled at the unexpected comment. Margaret and I met Ginger during our first trip to the Baja in 1993, and we had become good friends. When she passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in 1998 it was a shock to us both.

Margaret wasn’t trying to be melodramatic. She was trying to get me to think – think seriously – about retiring.

It was last Christmas and we were staying at Pio Pico, an RV park tucked into the scrub desert hills of the former Otay Ranch between San Diego and the Mexican border. We have often talked about full-timing in the motor-home, having all the time we wanted to explore the US and Mexico rather than taking rushed trips whenever I could squeeze out a few weeks of vacation. About ten years ago we took a few long trips, lasting several months, and we both loved the lifestyle.

Maybe, and more importantly, Margaret was trying to tell me I was getting older and shouldn’t frivolously waste my time on employment – working for the man – when I could spend it doing what I enjoyed. Travelling. Spending winters in sunny places where endless rain, snow, and freezing winds were unknown.

Me? Getting older? Old? Hah…!

Later that day we curled up to watch A Year in Provence, one of our favourite DVD’s, the story of Peter Mayle and his wife, Annie, who retired early from their demanding jobs and hectic lives in London and moved to an old farmhouse in the south of France. John Thaw, the actor who played Peter Mayle in the production, was five years younger than I was when he made the film. When he died, he was five years older.

I was beginning to feel downright mortal. Vulnerable. Maybe I was getting on. The RV crowd tends to made up of retirees and I’d always felt like a kid. During the 1990’s, we made three trips to Mexico with the girls. Other travellers made comments like, “I wish I’d been smart enough to do this when I was your age.” Now I look around and notice that I look an awful lot like everyone else. A bit of a limp. A groan when I realize that I have to go up a flight of stairs. I used to complain that the conversations in the hot tub always revolved around everyone’s latest medical problems. Now I have my own list of complaints to add to the discussion.

But who can retire? I have responsibilities, don’t I? I just need another few years and I then I’ll be in a better position to retire. Won’t I? Timothy Ferris, in his book, The Four-Hour Work Week, asks people to evaluate their progress on their own life plans by asking, Is my life is better now than it was a year ago? Five years ago?

I’m not sure that working another few years – just for the sake of working – will be of much benefit.

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