Yesterday evening was covenant group again. Once a month I meet with the same small group of members of the Unitarian Universalist Church that I attend. Six to eight of us commit to meet once a month, share stories, do readings, eat snacks and digress on a topic of some depth. After an hour of us doing a brain dump of the significant things that happened to us during the last month, we discuss a topic that we had agreed to discuss the last time we met. This time it was where we wanted to be five and ten years in the future.
I hated to admit it, but the topic was a stumper. For most of my life, I had a good idea about where I wanted to be ten years out. Now at age 48 I felt clueless.
We all agreed we did not want to be dead. That was easy. We also agreed we wanted to be in good health. I am the youngest member of my covenant group. As I noshed on strawberries, I wondered if I would break out into a cold sweat when it was my turn to speak. What was I to say? At 58 would I still be working? Would I be retired? Would I start playing golf? Would I start a hobby like building train sets in my basement? Would I find my evil side and take delight at exposing myself to unwilling victims on street corners? Would I write that novel I figured I would write eventually someday? Or would I just kick back and lead a wholly unplanned life, flitting from day to day like a bee flits from flower to flower?
I realized that part of the reason I did not want to think too much about it is that I would be a lot older. I hope that I would retain some semblance of my youthfulness but if it did not work for Robert Redford, it probably will not work for me either. At 48, I feel I look a lot better than most my age. I doubt that will be the case at 58. Generally, we Caucasians do not age well. Therefore, I hope I will graceful about my age. If I attract any young babes, it will be because I won the lottery, not because of my charming personality or youthful demeanor.
Sadly, the chances are good that when I am 58 both my parents will be deceased. My daughter will be 25 and presumably out of the house. (There are no guarantees these days. She seems very comfortable in her room and not anxious to start independent living. I suspect that I will need to bring in marshals to evict her.) If the federal government does not change its retirement policies I could be several years into retirement by the time I am 58.
Part of me expects there to be some calamity between now and then. Perhaps a few suitcase nuclear bombs will go off in Northern Virginia. If I survive that then I expect our assets will be gone with the nuclear fallout and I will be eking a living in drainage pipes and pushing a shopping cart. Perhaps my wife’s various medical problems will become persistent and acute. As a result, perhaps I will end up much like my father and spend my days catering to her. However, the odds are good that age 58 will find us comfortable. I hope that the economy will be good enough and my pension will be secure enough that I will not have to work anymore.
What I do not know yet is whether I would start a second career. In this country being age 58 would mean another decade in the workforce. Fifty-eight is now arguably the middle of middle age. Ideally, any second career would be on my time schedule. Most likely, a full time job would seem too burdensome. Economic necessity might require it. Since I currently teach part time (no more than one three-credit course a semester) and usually enjoy it, I can see myself doing that, probably teaching computer courses full time. Teaching has never been a profession to get into because you want big bucks. With a decent pension, forty thousand dollars a year would seem like a lot of money. On the other hand, since I am clearly a political creature perhaps I would run for public office. (Perhaps not. I cannot see myself spending days dialing for dollars.)
Yet I may still be in my present job. Perhaps I would enjoy it too much to retire. Looking five years ahead, it is likely that I will still be in my current position. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am in a job that is rewarding enough where I might want to keep doing it for ten more years. The pay is excellent. The responsibility is challenging but not overwhelming. I like making actual important strategic decisions. In addition, I am blessed with a terrific team. I am doing about the most interesting professional work that I can imagine. It is all right up my alley.
Nevertheless, I have always been one of these people who continually expect the other shoe to drop. Although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, I figure that I cannot keep a good job like this going indefinitely. Real life has to crash in eventually and make this latest job unrewarding.
Therefore, I am hoping that things will work out well: with my family, my career and financially. If so then I will have a genuine opportunity at 58: the ability to live life without much worry that I will become insolvent. In other words, I will have a real and extended retirement. Just the idea rather boggles my mind. What would I do with all that time? Having spent my life so far scrambling, what would I do with 20 or so years of decent health and no financial worries feel like?
I suspect I will not know the answer unless I experience it. One small nugget of wisdom that I have acquired in 48 years is that life’s journey rarely takes you where you expect. I expect that wherever life takes me in 10 years I will be surprised. Watching my older relatives go through these years, I do expect that much of it will be mundane. I doubt my wife and I will do quite the amount of traveling that we have envisioned. I expect there will still be gardens to weed and trash to take out. The last third of my life may not have many surprises but may feel like being Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. In ten years, blogging will no longer be sexy. I hope though that I will continue to make a habit of recording my thoughts, rambling and incoherent as they doubtless sometimes are, for my enjoyment, and perhaps yours too.