By Mark McNease
I’m very pleased to announce the return of One Thing or Another, my regular Editor’s column here and at lgbtSr. I finally have the time to do this properly, now that I’ve entered my, ahem, renaissance (keep reading for more on that …). Look for these biweekly, and if you have any topics to suggest, I’d love to hear them! Just email me at this link. – Mark
This must be what graduating high school felt like. It’s been awhile so I can’t remember the exact sensations, but I’m sure it came with the same, “Oh my God, I didn’t think that would ever get here” feeling I had when I left my office job for the last time two weeks ago. And with it, the ubiquitous office cubicle that most closely approximates solitary confinement in the modern American workplace. I’d known I wouldn’t miss this particular job for longer than it took me to leave the building, and wasn’t surprised when I felt that way by the time the elevator descended three floors.
It was nothing personal. The people I worked with were nice. There were no intra-office squabbles, but the job and the person in it (me) were going nowhere. My illustrious career as an executive assistant for people with impressive titles had ended several years earlier, and while this was not the best I could do, it is what I did. Biding my time for the vesting, hoping for that one scratch off ticket that would change everything and that I knew was never coming.
As is often the case in our post-job-security world, the decision was made for me when the company decided to close its Manhattan office. Since I’d made it known I was leaving at the end of the year to “pursue other opportunities,” this came as a pleasant surprise. It meant I would not leave empty handed: there would be severance, unemployment and, best of all, temporarily continued health insurance for my husband and me. Wow! I’ll take it. And I won’t have to second guess myself since I had no choice.
- Sleep past 5:00 a.m.
- Get up to speed on eBay – fast.
- Adjust everything you own to its flea market value.
- Sleep past 5:30 a.m.
- Write. Write some more.
I’m still settling into the new world of what a friend who writes retirement columns calls our “renaissance.” I love that and I’ve tried to get it trending, with mixed results. I’ve been getting up to write so early, for so long, that my attempts to sleep in to, say, 6:00 a.m., have so far failed. When you’ve only had two hours every workday to write fiction, maintain a website, give an ancient cat her blood pressure pill, make breakfast, and prepare yourself to spend a day staring at an office cubicle wall, it’s hard to change the body clock. Throw in the theme from I Love Lucy blaring from the bedroom television immediately following Cheers, and the challenge becomes herculean. It will probably be months before I’m able to sleep late, but the hope remains.
As many people who leave day jobs will tell you, one of the first questions you have after entering your renaissance is, “How did I manage to get all that done with a job?” If you’re like me, you’ll marvel at how little time you have to be “retired,” and you’ll continue for some time putting that word in scare quotes and air quotes because, really, who retires anymore? Cops. Teachers. People in unions. Presidents and Congresspersons. It’s a word more appropriate for those who see working a nine-to-five as the “before” in their lives, and retirement as the “after.”
“This is my friend Mark, he just retired,” she said to the waitress. “And he writes books!”
I used my nice voice to tell our dear friend that I was not “retired” (scare quotes again), that I must generate income for several more years at least, and that I’ve been a writer much longer than I was an administrative professional. I don’t plan to retire from writing until I have no more stories to tell, no more columns to write, and no more quips to toss out.
The word “retire” seems to me to be a relic from previous generations, though not too many. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling pioneers did not retire. Those who lived in agrarian societies, which was most of us until a couple hundred years ago, did not retire, unless they were among the gentry who never really worked in the first place and still don’t. There are no pensions anymore. Companies will dump you at the earliest opportunity (and with the slightest encouragement from the finance department). The 401(k) system has proven to be woefully inadequate and pretty much a convenient cover for managers and shareholders to say they tried before escorting you out of the office. (You will never, ever, have the minimum three million dollars we’re told we need to retire comfortably, so forget about it.)
The 50s, of which I’m more than half way through, have proven to be the most productive decade of my life. I firmly believe that’s going to continue as I decide what my renaissance will look like, what I’ll do with the time I’m no longer spending doing nothing in an office (read lots more books, power nap most days), and how I will go about being increasingly not retired.
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated.” He has had six plays produced, with the last, Till Morning Comes, premiered at New Jersey Repertory Co. He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), and the co-creator of the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.