One Thousand Words on Retirement Plans

This week I feel like a kid waiting for summer vacation because I’m taking fourteen days off over the holidays. Fourteen whole days!

I haven’t had so much time off all at once since I graduated from college. I’m practically giddy with excitement. And the best part is I don’t have any real plans. I have a few things I want to do and some “maybe one day I’ll go there” type of plans but I’m not traveling, I don’t have any absolute responsibilities or deadlines. I can just do whatever I want, when I want. Even if what I want is to do absolutely nothing.

Fourteen days seems like so long that I won’t possibly be able to fill up all that time, but I know from experiencing shorter vacations that it will go quickly. I’ll wake up that first morning and think, “I have two weeks off” then before I know it will be time to head back to work. But at least I should be rested and ready to return by then.

Having time off seems like such a luxury right now, while I’m working and looking at another thirty years of employment (at least) before I can retire. But I live with a retired person so I see what not working is like. Sometimes I fantasize about what I’d do if I were independently wealthy and didn’t depend on my paycheck. Or if I retired at age 41.

I’d start by spending as much time as I liked being literary. I would read all day and write all night.

Because I had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t have to worry about being picky about what I read. I would choose one author and read everything they’d written, one right after the other. I’d read the classics I’ve never read and feel like I should have read. I’d re-read books I read in high school and didn’t enjoy just to see if I liked them now. And I’d re-read my childhood favorites. I’d read everything on the list of “Great Books” and I’d read silly books from popular culture, like the Twilight series. I might even read the Bible, at least the good parts.

And I would write thousands of words a day, not just one thousand. I’d write a blog and a novel and short stories too. I would try writing poetry, although I don’t think I’d be very good at that. I would write my memoirs, although I don’t think they’d be very interesting. I’d write my mother’s memoirs. I would write a play.

When I got sick of being literary, I’d probably do some volunteer work. Not at a hospital, even though that’s such important work. I get nauseous just visiting the food court at our local hospital and sick people make me uncomfortable.

I’d volunteer somewhere quiet, like a library maybe. I could spend hours re-shelving books and straightening the children’s section.

Or maybe I’d be a docent at a museum. I could learn about the collections and lead tours around the exhibits. Or work in the gift shop, selling Monet postcards and Picasso puzzles and Warhol t-shirts.

Or maybe I’d volunteer at one of those historical sites. I love those old houses that are set up to look like they did in the 1700s or 1800s. I would make sure no one went into the roped off rooms and offer tourists fascinating little historical facts that they’d remember for years after the visit.

Or maybe I’d do something with senior citizens. I’d enjoy delivering meals on wheels, making sure the housebound people were ok and well fed. Or I would spend time playing cribbage and Gin Rummy with them, talking about their grandchildren and the “good old days,” just letting them know that someone cares.

I’d also take classes.

At first I’d concentrate on fun classes, like art and cooking. I’ve always wanted to make a mosaic out of ceramic pieces and learn how to create stained glass. And books. A friend took a class on bookmaking and I’ve been dying to try it ever since.

And photography is really interesting, too. Oh, and I’ve always wanted to study metal smithing and learn how to forge my own jewelry.

And of course, I’d take more writing workshops, maybe even some which lasted longer than one evening.

I’d also try some more serious classes, courses I wanted to take in college but didn’t have the time. Philosophy and religion, psychology and criminal justice. And Russian. I have wanted to learn how to speak Russian for years.

I might even get another Masters degree, not for a career but just for fun.

Even though it sounds cliché, I would also travel. But not that snowbird kind of travel. I don’t see any joy in spending half the year in one part of the country and the rest in a different part. It sounds like too much work to me. All my mother’s friends who do that get all stressed out about the move. It seems like the worry erases the benefits of spending the winter in a warmer climate.

Plus, I don’t like to be away from home for that long. And even if you have two houses, you’re bound to think of just one of them as “home.”

Instead I would take one to two week vacations several times a year. The regular trips would include two weeks in February on a tropical island, two weeks in the summer on the coast of Maine and a week in the fall in New York City.

I’d throw in some other trips to more exotic locales too. A blues cruise one year, a trip to all the great Southern US cities another. And Europe. I want to visit Austria. And Portugal. And since I’m learning Russian, I should probably visit Moscow too.

With that wish list, a fourteen day vacation doesn’t seem like enough time off at all. Guess I’ll have to retire instead.

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