Back in November of 1977, I took a job with Memphis State University, as The University of Memphis was then called, and have worked there ever since.  If everything goes as planned, I shall retire next month, October of 2013.  The long middle portion of my life, my work years, will be over, and I’ll start on what I call the final third of life.  The first third is all about growing up and getting an education, the middle third about work, but I hope my retirement years will be more than just waiting to die.  I have big plans.  In fact, I’ve thought more about retirement than I ever did as a kid to pondering that childhood Koan, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  For ten years now, I’ve asked myself, “What are you going to be when you retire?”

I hope it will be more than taking naps with my cat.


Strangely, reaction among my friends have been mixed to what I consider great news.  Many have pleaded I should keep working until age sixty-six.

Most of my work friends want me to stay.  I will miss them too, and hope to keep in contact.  I get the feeling they think once I’m gone, I’ll disappear.  I hope that’s not true.  A huge part of my social life has been work.  Some of these people seem to suggest that retiring is stepping down from life.  They are the ones that plan to work until their seventies or eighties.  Many have exclaimed, “Won’t you be bored to death?”

People at work who depend on me for help ask, “Who’s going to program my reports now?”  Luckily, I’m retiring just when IT decided to expand their sphere to all the computer related workers in the departments and colleges.  They have already assigned a programmer to come work with me for the next several weeks. 

My retired friends are the happiest to hear that I’m retiring.  They’ve already started their new life and are very happy.

I have great ambitions for retirement, but even if I never achieve any of them, I’m quite sure I’ll be happy just having more time to read, watch movies, television shows and documentaries and listen to a lot of music.  I read around fifty books a year, now, so I hope to expend it to 100.  I have a lifetime of book collecting on my shelves that are mostly unread.  I’ve collected enough unread volumes to last decades. 

I subscribe to a music service with over 20 million songs, and plan to roam up and down the history of music, studying classical, jazz, folk, world, etc.

I have countless art books, art DVDs, video art history courses that I want to study.

Now with free online courses given around the world, I want to study everything I never had time for but dream about. 

I’ve seen thousands of movies and documentaries, and I’ve still got thousand more I want to see.

Finally I have time – time, time, time!

I hope I don’t break my glasses like Henry Beamis.

However, I want my retirement years to be more than just pursuing passive entertainment.  I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but whined I never had time.  Now it’s time to put up or shut up.  I have drafts of several novels I’ve written over the years that I’m anxious to finish.  I don’t plan to sleep in after I retire.  In fact, I plan to get up even earlier than I did for work, and devote my mornings to writing like it was a job.  After lunch it will be hobby time.

Because I was a programmer all my life, I’ve always dreamed of writing fun programs.  Apps for tablets and smartphones offers wonderful possibilities.  My friend Mike, also a programmer that will retire soon, and I, plan to work on some projects together, or at least concurrently. 

One of my major regrets of my first third years was not being disciplined enough to learn advanced mathematics.  I’m going to test the assertion, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” by studying math.  I plan to combine the desire to learn the Python programming language with study of math by programming all my homework problems into a graphical math system I develop myself.  I’d love to buy a 4k monitor and program a coordinate system to display beautiful geometric designs.  I’m currently reading Euclid’s Window, a book about the history of geometry and it’s impact on the sciences, and I’d like to understand this book at a deeper level than just racing over the narrative.

Scientific American used to run a column called “The Amateur Scientist” which described do-it-yourself experiments that could be done in a home workshop.  A few years back I bought a CD of the complete series, thinking they might be a wonderful retirement hobby activity.

There’s a guitar sitting in my room, that I’ve been meaning to learn to play for years.  I also wanted to learn to play chess and bridge.  Man, I’ve forgotten more things I want to do than I’ve written about here.

How can anyone ask if I will be bored?

To be honest with myself, I’m racing to do these things while I can, because my brain is winding down, my heart is wimpy, and physical wellbeing is declining.

JWH – 9/2/13

4 thoughts on “Retiring”

  1. Many have exclaimed, “Won’t you be bored to death?”

    Well, I’ve known people who retired early and got bored. They were back working again within a year or two.

    But I can’t even imagine that. I retired at 55 and it was the best thing I ever did. It’s been seven years now, and I’ve never been bored, not even a tiny bit. In fact, I feel like I’m busier now than I was before I retired.

    Best of luck, Jim! People are different, but I think you’ll enjoy it. And your plans are admirable. But then, you’re a lot more ambitious than I’ve ever been. I really admire that.

    Me? I’m just waiting to die. However, I’m having a great time while I’m waiting. 🙂

  2. Good news! Retirement is great. There is no need to ever be bored or
    “waiting to die”. You have great plans. Might I suggest that you make a schedule and stick to it? It really helps to stay organized and end up doing the things you want to do. Yes, health isn’t as great, but moving around and eating well (not a lot, but well) will help in all aspects of your life. I worked until I was 72 – because I wanted to – and am now 79 with 7 years of retirement behind me. Stay socially viable and enjoy the things that turn your clock. I’ll be interested in how you fare.

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