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Thursday, January 17 , 2019, 12:07 am | Light Rain Fog/Mist 59º


Paul Burri: Random Retirement Ruminations

Peggy Lee recorded a song in 1969 entitled, “Is That All There Is?” Thinking back on it reminds me of the story about the man who loved to fish.

This man worked at a job that satisfied and rewarded him but still, hardly a day went by that he didn’t dream about the weekend or his next two-week vacation when he could get out on the lake to do his favorite thing — fishing.

So, eventually, after a long, satisfying career he finally reached retirement and sure enough, the next Monday, bright and early he was out on the lake in his boat, fishing. Tuesday he was out there again. Wednesday the fishing was great and he had a wonderful time. Same for Thursday and Friday.

The following week, he spent every day on the lake. Ditto the week after that.

On Thursday of the seventh week, the fishing was a little slow and he had some time to think about his former career and how enjoyable retirement was with the freedom he had to pursue his favorite thing.

On Friday of the week after that, a new thought came to him. “Is this all there is?” Suddenly he realized he was now facing another 20 or so years of doing what he was doing at the moment. And he got scared because he was starting to get bored.

Retirement can be a scary thing — and especially for men. There’s an interesting theory about the reason for that and it concerns the difference between the way men and women think about themselves. It turns out that women have known the answer for thousands of years. Men perhaps still haven’t learned the secret.

Is you ask the average woman the question, “Who are you?” she will probably answer something like this, “I am a woman, I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am an aunt and I am an accountant.” Ask a man the same question and the chances are he will answer, “I am an engineer” or “I am a lawyer” or “I am a computer analyst.”

Women identify themselves in an emotional and relational context. Men identify themselves by what they do rather than who they are. Being a father or a husband or a brother usually takes second place to what they do for a living. Get a couple of men together and the first thing they want to do is exchange business cards and know about what the other guy does for a living. I think it’s a sort of a hierarchical thing. I also look at it as men’s equivalent of canine genital sniffing.

The main problem with a man’s attitude of identifying himself with what he does is that when he retires he can no longer say I’m an accountant or I’m an attorney or I’m a physician. He is now a — well, exactly what is he? He could easily feel that he is now a nothing. Bad news.

So what’s the secret of a successful retirement? My idea of a successful retirement is to have many interests in one’s life. Getting tired of fishing every day with no end in sight? Play a little golf. Read. Play bocce. Write a book. Join a charitable organization and start giving back. That last idea is especially rewarding — not only to one’s own mental and physical health — but also to the beneficiaries of the charity. It’s called a win/win.

One last bit of advice about retirement. Among those varied retirement interests, I suggest you avoid things like rock climbing, pole vaulting, power lifting or ski jumping. As someone once said, “Old age is not for wimps.” If you are like me, you’ll get much greater satisfaction from arguing with friends over coffee, eating out in fancy restaurants, napping in the afternoon, and thinking about not having to go to work tomorrow.

And giving back is very rewarding.

— Goleta resident Paul Burri is a writer, columnist, inventor, woodworker, photographer, board member, business consultant and chairman of the local SCORE Recruitment Committee. Comments and praise are welcomed and can be directed to him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Criticisms are discouraged. The opinions expressed are his own.

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