I retire next month. Since age 13, most of my waking hours have been at the disposal of someone else. Whenever I have not been in school I have always been employed in one kind of work or another. In all of those years, others, not me, have had say-so over how I spent most of my time, where I spent it and who I spent it with. It didn't matter if I didn't like the people I had to be with to do this. I had to bottle up whatever I had to bottle up to get along. I have observed that this is the way it is, in most of the working world. In these conceptual ways, employment is somewhat like bondage.
I am one of the lucky few who has reasonable prospects for a decent standard of living during a likely to be financially secure retirement. I appreciate that many if not most Americans are not as well provided for and often continue to work if they can, out of necessity, or retire to penury, itself a form of bondage.
I've been thinking a lot lately about what retirement will feel like to me, and should feel like to everyone. There is a word for it: Freedom.
Follow me out into the tall grass for some more thoughts on that very big word.
Think about the way people have to act to get along well at work in most jobs. Rude customers? Too bad, back to work! Disagreeable and unhelpful coworkers? Too bad, back to work! Incompetent supervisors? Too bad, back to work! Ridiculous performance goals? Too bad, back to work! Dangerous conditions? Too bad, back to work! These kinds of problems seem persistent even in many union workplaces.
There are great places to work in America to be sure. Sadly, they are easy to number, few and pretty exceptional. The general run of the mill appears much more grim. Do people eagerly and freely volunteer to expose themselves to these conditions? No, except possibly folks like unpaid interns. People bind themselves to these conditions for the money.
I have practiced law for the last 37 years in courts and administrative bodies at all levels all over the country from small claims to the U.S. Supreme Court. This has been another form of servitude. I've spent a lifetime kowtowing, genuflecting and glad handing clients, judges and opposing counsel who are people whom I wouldn't cross the street to spit on. I'm talking about rude, self-righteous, entitled, ass hatted people. Worse have been the times when circumstances compelled me to be the asshole, acting within the outer edges of legality to use a court or other legal means to impose hard conditions upon another party, perhaps even an innocent one. The sake of a client compels an attorney to do such things sometimes. I am also bound by myriad secrets and confidences of clients.
Retirement changes all of that. Well, most of that. I'll still keep all the secrets. Retirement frees me and makes me sole master of my self. My retirement is taking on deeper significance the more I think about it. Retirement = Emancipation.