Last night, I told Jeff that I only have ten weeks of unemployment left, so I need to redouble my efforts to find a job, and I need to get my car back. (My son saves on car repairs by borrowing mom’s ride.)
That good and loving man looked at me, smiled, and asked “Why?”
“You’re 62,” he said. “Are you going to get a job doing what you like, paying what you’re used to, within a comfortable commuting distance? Are you going to get enough vacation days to stay home when it snows? Will you go back to leaving home at sunrise, and getting home after dark?”
“I am not 62,” I replied. “Not until November.”
But he had a point. I’ve been calling the last four months my unexpected retirement, but I’ve never really accepted the possibility of being retired.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Could I do that?”
“Sure,” he replied. After all, he works, the house has no mortgage, Uncle Sam is still paying a little Social Security, and we have enough savings to counter a foreseeable emergency or two. I’ve already experienced a significant reduction in expenses simply by eliminating my daily commute. I’d certainly feel better if we had the wherewithal to be a little more generous to the kids, but they are, thank God, capable, hard-working adults. They need a spotter from time to time, as we all do, but they are ready to pedal through life without training wheels.
“I don’t want to be a drag on you,” I told Jeff.
And I don’t. I grew up in the seventies, and my role models were women who worked. In the decades that followed, I knew I didn’t measure up to my mom when it came to being the ideal wife and mother, but I could look at my progressively nicer offices, and at my paychecks, and feel a modicum of self worth. I was at least as successful as Mary Richards, or Rhoda Morgenstern, or Anne Marie. In fact, I was more successful. I had a husband and children, too… and I wasn’t a burden to my husband. I was a contributor.
“You wouldn’t be a drag. We wouldn’t have what we have without you. But we have what we need. Why not enjoy it?”
Maybe I even should.
But there’s a hitch.
I don’t like the way my career ended.
Being laid off was never part of the script.
Oh, it should have been. Isn’t that how Mary Richards’ career ended at WJM-TV?
But she was about forty at the time. She was healthy. She was smart. She was cute. And she could toss a woolen cap with unmatchable insouciance. She was going to make it after all… elsewhere.
But if I retire now, there will be no elsewhere. I’ll be saying, “I’m not gonna make it after this. I’m not going to try to make anything else… even though I’ve never made anything particularly impressive.”
Isn’t that awful? It’s an acceptance of the fact that I never moved the needle… never changed the game… and now, I never will.
Damned if I ever accept that!
I do not want to stop working until I have produced something of which I am proud… really proud. And then, I want a fucking retirement party. I want presents… a sheetcake… a few cheap bottles of wine, and a couple of half-sincere speeches, filled with flowery encomium.
Right now, I can tell you this: I am not going to retire, if retirement means “I am now going to stop working.”
But I may stop trying to find a new employer, and I may choose to work exclusively for myself.
I wish I paid better.