Daydreaming about retirement makes me wonder just what I would do if all my days were free from the 9 to 5 job. My biggest fear is I would become a couch potato and die soon after retiring because I’d let myself go. What I need is a good routine, a way to pace myself and maximize the use of my free time. Now this is all speculation because I’m not going to get to retire soon. If I’m lucky I could retire in another year and work part-time, but only if I’m brave enough to find a good part-time job. It would be so easy to just keep working where I do because I like it so well. Thus I want to contemplate this possible future to help make it happen.
For now, I’d like to imagine my perfect routine day. To begin with I want to get up early – I don’t want to waste any precious free time. If I had discipline, I’d get up at 5:30 and do yoga and Bowflex exercises for a half hour and then shower and dress. To be honest, I barely exercise now, beyond walking a few times a week, doing some half-ass make-up-my-own yoga to help my back when it gets stiff, and a rare bout of Bowflex when my arms feel particularly flabby.
As you can see, my perfect routine day also involves becoming a new person. I wonder if that’s possible? I’ve been meaning to change myself since I was a teenager and it hasn’t worked yet. A recent article in Wired, “Brain Scanners Can See Your Decision Before You Make Them” suggests that we lack will power or free will. I’ve read other books about the brain that cover this territory, suggesting that we have subconscious actors in our head that make the real decisions and our conscious minds go along thinking they decided and are the real bosses. Thus, I’d add to my morning schedule a bit of meditation hoping I could tune into these inner mechanisms and wrestle control.
I don’t know why, but I’m the most inspired with writing ideas during my morning shower, so I think my routine should be built around this. I’d like to start writing right after getting dressed and maybe eat breakfast at my desk. I start the day fully charged and slowly drain my mental batteries as the day progresses. I’d want to use my best time and mental energy for writing. Devoting mornings to writing and focusing on fiction is the key to optimizing my energy curve. This should take me to nine or ten o’clock.
At this point I’d like to read a single non-fiction essay that has great inspirational impact. Detailed facts are a major fuel for my mental fires, and I need something I can contemplate in my spare cognitive moments for the rest of the day.
About now, if I have to work part-time I’d like to go off for my four hours. I should snack some because I’d want to work through the lunch hour. It would be great if work was close enough to walk or bike so I could combine exercise with transportation time. I’d also listen to books on audio while commuting – thus providing triple multitasking. During this phase of my life I will be getting most of my book reading done through my ears. I’d listen to books during housework, yard work, travel and exercise.
Even if I could afford to quit work full time it might be good for me to have one or more part time jobs. Working in a library or bookstore might be rewarding. Computers are my work life now, and it would be good to get away from them and do something different, but on the other hand I could be very useful as a Old Geek Computer Fix-It man, and it might be more profitable. On the other hand it would be more of a challenge if I could start a business developing custom software. However, running a business usually means 60-80 hour workweeks, and I most definitely do not want that. I think whatever I do, my perfect daily routine would want me to work more with people and less with machines.
After work I will need a small meal and a nap. Currently I need two naps a day and I don’t expect to change. I wish I was one of those people who can sleep five hours and run like a race horse until the wee hours. I’m not. Currently I need to nap in the early evening so I can stay up late. I can’t stay in bed 8-9 hours at a stretch because of the arthritis in my hips. I get pretty stiff and hurting after 5-6 hours, and I even have to spend part of my night sleeping in a La-Z-Boy. Getting old and breaking down presents some interesting problems to deal with, and sleeping and living with a growing pain load are two of them.
I know my perfect routine days will coincide with the slow downward slide of health. I’ll be Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill and to beat the system I’ll have to squeeze as much positive life out of the time I have.
After I get up from my nap I’d like to have some socializing time, either with my wife or friends. This will be a good time to watch TV or movies, and eat dinner together, or even play group games or share hobbies.
I’ve always loved television, but I don’t know if I want to waste too much of my freedom on the tube. I love having a good show to look forward to, like Lost or John Adams. I like watching television with other people. For each day I wouldn’t want to watch more than one show or movie, which means devoting no more than 1-2 hours to sitting in front of my HDTV. I’d want about one-third fiction to two-thirds non-fiction mix. The world of documentaries have gotten to be a fantastic genre in recent years.
Shows like The Universe, Planet Earth, Frontline, NOVA, The Miracle Planet, Independent Lens, Naked Science are amazing sources of information and entertainment. I can’t believe I know so few people who watch these shows. I’m surprised so many people as they age lock into their favorite entertainments and hide from the current world. Modern cable television with its hundreds of channels is a sixth sense that allows us to roam the globe and keep up with countless human endeavors. The Internet gets all the press about social change, but cable television is just as powerful. Its another medium that brings the people of the world together. I expect to be watching cable television when I pass on – I want to go out knowing as much as I can before I die.
Part of my perfect routine day will involve blogging. I hope as the years go by blogging becomes even more sophisticated. Probably after my social time I’ll take another nap and then get up and spend the rest of the evening blogging and working on hobbies.
I have a number of hobbies I’d like to pursue, but the one that I think would be the most fun is to recreate the experiments from the old “Amateur Scientist” column in Scientific American. I bought a CD-ROM that collected them years ago and put it away for my retirement years. Amazon doesn’t seem to sell it anymore, but v. 3 appears to be still for sale here. I think it would be a fun hobby to work out lesson plans for schools on how to do basic scientific experiments. Combine the Make impulse with Teach impulse.
I’d also like to experiment with robotics and artificial intelligence, but on a kid level, something like Lego Mindstorms kits. I guess when guys get old they want to play with toys again.
Finally, I’d like to close out my day by reading a short story. I find short stories to be intense compact communiqués from deep within the souls of other people. I’m surprised they aren’t a more popular art form. To me short stories offer the most bang for the literary buck. Short stories combine feats of imagination with encapsulated emotion – and a good story should bring tears to your eyes, whether it’s dramatic or comic. Great ones should make the top of your scull feel like it’s lifting off your head, like the rush of an intense but quick acting drug. Short stories should leave you drained like you’ve just mind-melded with another human for an hour.
I’d want to leave this fictional rush to just before bed time hoping it would affect my dreams. I’d like to get to sleep by 11:30 so I could get a good six hours sleep and be up and at it again by 5:30 the next morning. As you can see I expect to cram a lot into my retiring years. I’ve been working for decades, during the best years of my life, and this has been zapping all my energy. I’m hoping my golden years are ones I can get a lot done and make up for all those years I was too tired to do anything but veg out in front of the boob tube.