A man crosses many finish lines in the course of his lifetime if he's lucky to live long enough. There are literally thousands of finish lines, like when you finally learn to poop in the potty. As insignificant as that sounds, admittedly it is a notable start to many more achievements sure to come later in life. Major life-changing events such as graduating from high school or college, marriage, children, careers...are all finish lines that we cross as we traverse the timeline of life. But what is the BIG finish line?
For the past decade or so I have had my eyes focused on what I considered to be the ultimate finish line. It seemed so far away and at times, non-existent. But time passed slowly...very slowly, and suddenly one day, quite unexpectedly actually, I looked up and saw that finish line looming before me. Wow, I made it!
So, just a few days before Christmas, I gathered up my personal belongings from my workstation, which consisted of an early sixties model Sears radio and a green plastic coffee cup, and made the final fifty yards to that yellow tape. As a heavy steel door slammed behind me, a twenty-three-year career came to a close. I was retired!
One of my biggest fears in recent years was that I'd die working. I talked with a whole lot of folks the past few months who seem just fine with the idea...work till they die. I had a conversation with a man who has worked for the same organization for forty years. He plans to die right there on the job. I chatted with another who is pushing eighty! I said, "Retire!"
He replied angrily, "And what am I going to do, play dominoes?"
I am proud to say that at the age of sixty I laid it down. If I've a mind to, I'll play dominoes. Fact is, I'll do any damn thing I want to while I am young enough to do so. I have worked since I was fifteen years old and the truth is, I spent every one of those days working to get to where I am now. Yes sir, pretty proud to be here... on the other side of that finish line.
I'm not one to give unsolicited advice usually, but being the storyteller that I am, here's one to ponder:
I started working for a supermarket chain while I was still in high school, taking a break for a short stint in college before coming back with the intent of working my way up the ladder. By the age of thirty, I had promoted to the position of Store Manager, making good money. I have the Rolex in my dresser drawer to prove it. It was toward the end of my fifteenth anniversary that I had a conversation with a woman who had worked for the company for forty-five years.
She said, "I have to keep working. If I retire, my pension will only be eight hundred dollars a month..."
She never got to draw that pension. She died working.
That conversation haunted me. I began crunching numbers. Sure, my retirement check would be considerably larger than eight hundred bucks. If I stayed with the company for forty-five years, I'd bring in a whopping seventeen hundred dollars a month. It only made senc\se to commit myself to begin saving for retirement. I was only thirty-five. Surely I could amass a whopping...more crunching...wow, pretty bleak outlook. And so, I changed careers. After fifteen years...sitting at the top of the ladder...I just up and quit.
Ah, but all this talk of working is bringing me down. Allow me to gloat! For the first time in forty-five years, I am getting more than six hours of sleep every night. It was my first goal...to sleep until I can't sleep anymore. I can drink my coffee down at the McDonalds in the morning and stop by the diner in the afternoon for pie and ice cream. I went to the doctor twice this week. Well, I needed to for a long time but I was WORKING! I'll spend some time getting myself into prime shape now that I'm retired. Yes, maybe even a gym membership and some water aerobics down at the city pool this summer.And maybe I'll write. Can't promise that. It sure is hard to sit still when there's so much living to get done.
The Good Lord has blessed me. I intend to spend time passing that forward. There are folks out there that need a leg up, a helping hand, or maybe just a smile and an encouraging word. I've got the time and I reckon I should make it count best I can. Perhaps there is a reason I've found myself where I am...perhaps there is a purpose. I'm excited about that. Always ready for another adventure...and another tale to tell.
I gotta we wrap this up. Tomorrow's Sunday and it's the only day I have to set the alarm because I'm retired, you know. So, I'm off to iron some church clothes. The next time I write, which may or may not be next week since you know...I'm retired...I'll tell you about where I spent the last twenty-three years of my life. I think you will be surprised and this revelation will open up a multitude of new tales I've not been able to share until now. Good gosh, I haven't clipped my fingernails since I retired. So little time, so much to do!