Saturday, January 3, 2015

Towards a Narrative of Retirement

In Why Retirement 2.0, I said I was hoping to move away from traditional notions of retirement and towards something more meaningfully engaging.

It is the word towards that gives me pause.

I am a student of narrative, and I believe that narrative is not only "textual"--something we read or watch, but also "experiential"--how we organize our life.

I am also persuaded that narratives always proceed towards some "sense of an ending." Living life as a narrative, we do not exist in abstract sequential time, but in humanly meaningful time--extended from a beginning, through a middle, towards some kind of conclusion or fulfilled action.

Now it is very easy to live life as narrative when you are an academic. There are myriad temporal forms that begin, then move forward, towards an anticipated end: semesters, academic years, progress towards tenure, to promotion, etc. For over 45 years my life was structured around the norms and goals of academic life:  getting a PhD, teaching classes, writing articles or books, mentoring students.  All these activities gave my life much of its form and meaning.  (Not all, of course; there is also being married, being a sister, being a friend--but that's for another post.)

So lacking the goal-structured narrative of academic success, where does the new story come from?

To be honest, I don't really know.

For this first year of retirement, I made some very definite plans.  I gave myself a "sabbatical," partly filled with treats so that I didn't have to think about what I would ultimately do. 

Just after the end of Spring 2014 semester, Tony and I went to the Southwest to visit our most favorite places:  Capitol Reef NP, Nine-Mile Canyon, The Great Gallery, Arches NP, and Santa Fe.

Gossips at Arches National Park

We then up to our house at Lake Medora in Michigan.  For some reason, I don't really need a goal while I am the lake.  Life becomes strangely non-narrative, and is made up repetition of pleasures.

On The Road in the Keweenaw.

We then came back to Louisville for three months, primarily to get ourselves ready for Budapest.  While we did have some real fun--Dickie and Cindy Selfe came for Christmas--too much of the time was taken up with a series of minor but incredibly tedious medical matters.  This is part of the narrative of retirement I am trying very hard not to think about.

Celebratory Season

February, March, and April we will be in Budapest.  Hurray.

Odon Lechner, the Great Hungarian Architect

On May 1, we will come back to Louisville, revisit all our doctors [no pictures here!], hope for the best, and get ourselves ready to go back to the lake.

In mid-May we hope to go to the lake, and plan to stay until mid-December.  Our fingers are crossed, because this year they had 80 inches (a record) of snow that early in the winter.

Over the Rainbow at Lake Medora

December 2015, we will return to Louisville and then I will have to face the real question of

What is the Narrative of Retirement?

No comments :

Post a Comment