A Good Map to Keeping Young
By Patrick M. Kennedy
You know, you’ve probably done it before, when you are about to take a vacation trip from work, you pull out a map and visually scout the area and the route you are about to take; especially if you are doing the driving. It’s probably a long way and you want to make it as easy and close to perfect as possible so you can have a good time. You might even call ahead and make room reservations so you will be comfortable at the end of each driving day. Or, you may circle the fun spots, roadside attractions and scenic routes along the trip, to make the vacation more enjoyable. You even make sure the car is greased, tuned and aired so there will be no undesirable snags along the way. It’s a well laid out plan and you are well prepared to have a good time.
Now, you are about the make another long trip that will last the rest of your life. It is called retirement. Do you have a plan, a map, to guide you through this arduous and complicated journey? Oh you can just wing it and fly thorough by the seat of your pants, but it would probably be much more relaxing and easy going if you followed that motto of the Boy Scouts, ‘Be Prepared’. But don’t follow the advice of Will Rogers, “Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save.” That sounds like a waste of good time.
Now, how to map out this journey is a good question. For sure there isn’t an AAA that gives out maps for this jaunt. Lists are great! How about dragging out that woulda-coulda-shoulda list you made while you were a working bee. I wish I would have gone there; I wish I had done this; I should have kept up my art hobby; if only I had the time to … do anything I liked. “You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely,” said Ogden Nash, and that is a good start and attitude when developing this map. You are as young as you think you are. And remember, some people are in retirement almost as long as they were working.
A pencil and yellow pad would be great here. You start writing down anything that comes to your mind about this subject. Writers call it a ‘Stream of Consciousness’ that is, the continuous flow of sense perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and memories in your mind that just pop up as the pencil flows across the paper. Believe it, this works, and one thought will lead to another and to another; and then it becomes a list of thing to do and that line is now being drawn across your retirement map and you can start adding the fun spots you want to hit along the way. Of course there are restrictions; finances, health, ‘how can I work my lounge chair into this plan’, and family ties; but no time restrictions.
“Retirement is the ugliest word in the language”, said Ernest Hemingway, and he is right if you think of it as doing nothing instead of doing something with it. The challenge of retirement is how to spend time and not waste it. This doesn’t have to be a dream project, but a real plan of action. Just remember what the poet Anne Sexton said, “In a dream you are never eighty.” A good map keeps you young.