How is retirement going?
The question comes with some frequency and, I assume, generally good intentions. But it makes me bristle. Every time. I chafe at what it seems to suggest. I want to reply, “Reboot. It’s a reboot!”
What is it that is so unsettling about a simple word? Anything that gets to me like that is certainly worth understanding better. So: what is it?
I’ve always been fascinated by language. English is rich with complicated words of incongruous, multiple meanings. We’re fortunate to operate in a tongue that offers such depth and nuance. Even when it’s messy. Maybe especially when it’s messy.
To retire is to retreat, to withdraw from action or danger, to remove oneself to a place of privacy, to move back, to go to bed.
It also means to stop working — with a musty aura of Old Age about it.
For me, the other meanings cast long shadows and discolor the workplace version. They suggest narrowing, slowing, a kind of defeat. Death.
S. is going through a similar transition. He thinks if we’re going to live to 90, we need some new ways to think about the back thirty. I’m with him. I submit: we should retire “retire”. What we need is a new moniker for a new paradigm.
“Retire” comes from the Middle French retirer, re- + tirer to draw. Now that makes some sense — what we’re doing here is redrawing the landscape — but if such a connotation ever existed, it’s now long-gone.
I like “reboot” – it feels right, has that techno-current thing going on. But what do you think? What would you call it?