“Your career may be ending but congratulations as you begin a new chapter of your life.” “The fun part of your life starts now.” “Are you excited?” “Any plans? Travels?” “You will now have time for things you’ve always wanted to do.” These are some euphemisms commonly used to convince (console?) ourselves that life continues even as working life comes to a close. It is not unlike using the expression, “passing away” instead of stating the deadly truth. I wonder why do we feel the need to approach retirement like a jolly dirge. A few people helpfully suggest, “Think positive, and life will just be peachy.” My thoughts not spoken out loud are, “If I am able to still think a few years down the road, THAT would be positive.”
I have a different take on the subject and have always wondered how cool it would be to host and enjoy an obsequy while still being around to participate in such an event. Visualize family and friends gathered around as one basks in the limelight, for once being the center of attention, but outside the confines of a casket, enjoying the eulogies while everyone feasts on food and drink, likely paid from the proceeds of one’s estate! Instead of watching from a cool heavenly place or another hotspot, one would be right there in the thick of it all. A retirement party is probably the closest one could get to a celebratory wake and have a heavenly time being feted, subjected to a good-hearted roast and applauded for being a jolly good fella.
There is however, a singular difference between a merry wake and the retirement “fare thee well” send-off. The former event is terminal in nature and so does not, unfortunately, afford one the opportunity to retrace steps and do things all over again, or, to make amends for not having invested in relationships as much as one wanted or needed to, over the lifetime. A hug to be shared with that special friend one more time, an apology to be tendered to the aunt that one did not visit after her husband passed away and other similar life’s trivialities that suddenly assume life and death proportion, literally. Unlike the farewell reception, a wake does not allow one to have the final word, to give back as good as one got.
My dream came true the other evening, as I happily readied myself for life without a job and my colleagues, friends and family helped me celebrate this transitional phase. Memories from twenty years ago came flooding back. Then, I was ready to do anything to land my first job upon arriving in Canada and now, I was readily moving away from a dream job. We turn ourselves into magicians who can change perspectives in the blink of an eye. See, this hand is empty and voila, in the other palm appears a trinket that one longed for, all through life – the golden pot at the end of the elusive rainbow. The time has come now to live out each of your dreams. Some people have bucket-lists ready and are fortunate enough to do just that.
Many years ago, I came to the conclusion that life was made up of “now” moments. This eureka realization occurred after I had gone almost a week without spending time with my kids because of work related activities. I would leave for work early in the morning when the children were still asleep, returning late in the evening after they had retired for the night. It was not difficult to decide what had to change. Also, the loss of loved ones early in my life taught me the important lesson that there is no guarantee that an IOU signed today would be cashed later. There is no opportune time like NOW. My own bucket list is therefore very short and does not stretch far into the future.
The most difficult part of this process is mentally rewinding one’s life to parse and highlight events or individuals for special thanks, when in reality everything and everyone helped one arrive at this juncture in life. It is like being asked to revise one’s resume. That’s my life right there, so what do you mean I have to reduce it from two, to no more than one and a half pages? Who said work-life choices were easy?
However, I will take the easy option and thank all the wonderful beings who will always remain an integral part of my life. Please know that I am grateful for your support and friendship, even as I look forward to continuing our relationship well into the future.
Right now, time is precious and I have work to do. For instance, quietly hum this favorite song from a 1972 movie. Sung by the late Manna Dey, it perfectly reflects my current state of mind:
“Abhi to haath main jam hai
Taubaa kitnaa kaam hai
Kabhi mili fursat to bhai dekhaa jaayegaa
Duniyaa ke baare main ha! sochaa jaayegaa..”
[Right now, my hand is holding this goblet
Oh, (there’s) so much work to be done
When/if there is time, we will check things out (at leisure)
Ah, that is when we will think about this world ….]