Vail Daily column: The foggy path ahead
Ryan Summerlin September 4, 2014
Retirement has crept on cat’s feet, the faintest mist, into the conversation with my college classmates, and with it consideration of aging, mortality and youth.
Yes, youth. We’re firmly ensconced in the baby boomer breakaway generation that frankly none before and none after have quite emulated. X and Y and whatever comes next have progressed by degrees, shades really, along a path this generation broke.
We certainly weren’t the Greatest, nor the craziest, at least by our standards. We might be the most willful, materialistic and volatile in our swings to embrace this trend or that, especially ones that promise to keep aging at bay.
Think rock ’n’ roll, the demand for fast food, a penchant for cultural rebellion and then as easily selling out for wealth. The boomers pioneered or popularized all this.
Now it’s retirement as the leading edge reaches deep into their 60s.
Behind the shiny, cutting edge of our generation, our little group has a classmate who was able to retire early, along with a spouse and another friend who did the same.
I’m, alas, among the damned — doomed to employment till pried apart from my grip on my work, which continues to grab me, perhaps all the more so for the twists and turns of my industry’s transformation.
Now, this thinking may well be a consequence of how retirement conditions have changed, pensions replaced with yer-on-yer-own models that employers came to embrace. Between doubts about Social Security and a certain lack of loyalty in corporate life, musing about retirement is pretty much idle thinking for a generation that also never was much on saving.
I pondered this while listening to a classmate ruminate about edging closer to qualifying for his university’s pension plan at a decent amount.
He does have a choice, in other words. And unlike my situation, his job fascinates him less and less. He’s working for the money as his passion ebbs and an alternative takes shape.
But I have friends, most a bit older, who came to miss meaningful work after they retired. They skied, traveled, golfed, gardened, cycled, hiked and entertained to their hearts’ content only to find a hole growing in their lives. This is not everyone, by any means, but it may be that we can only play so much before we begin to long to contribute more, to work at something again.
I imagine that this is where the concept of “encore” careers gained a foothold. Philanthropy, politics, service clubs and other forms of community building have attracted many of our finest citizens at this stage in their lives.
Then there are the ones my age and younger who parlayed astounding success into early retirement. What drove their success may drive some of them, at least, all the faster through their fill of fun. I suspect this would be my lot if wealthy enough to shuck off my working life early. All too soon I’d be twitchy for the next career challenge.
Only the first whispers of this conversation to come drifted in last weekend on our sunny afternoon at the beach on the far northern California coast. We were far more focused on catching up with each others’ lives, reliving ancient memories, goofing around and laughing as much as solving world problems over our beers as some paddled kayaks out on a lagoon.
In time, as this was northern California, after all, the sun softened and then slid behind a gray bank.
I grabbed a beer, and a jacket, determined to stay in the moment as long as I could.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.