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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Waiting for room temperature to set in

I had a long talk on the phone with a good buddy of mine. We talked about a lot of things. My friend is planning an early retirement and has a lot of things he wants to do. He’ll do them too. I know that because he does a lot of things now. He’s not afraid to step outside his comfort zone.
He tells me that a lot of his coworkers plan to watch TV and sit on the porch when they retire. After all, they say, what more is there?

My daughter tells me of someone she knows who just lost their job due to the factory closing. While that’s not good, the workers were given very generous severance bonuses, including a full 6 months pay.

“Now would be a good time to follow your dreams,” my daughter said.

“I don’t have any,” her friend said.

Sad really. Her biggest wish was to get another mindless factory job.

On the end of the spectrum, a good friend of mine was in a similar situation. He called his unemployment checks “artist grants.” Art was always a part time thing for him, but after the factory closed, he threw himself into it full time. In a year he produced a huge body of work, painting, photography, graphics, CD covers, experimental sculptures, theater posters -you name it, he probably did it.

At the same time, he read constantly, concentrating on philosophy. Many people thought he was wasting his time.

Now some people recommend that you should treat unemployment like a full time job. Every day you should put all your efforts into finding the next job. My buddy threw himself into his art instead. When the checks finally stopped, he’d discovered that by living very frugally it was possible to live selling art. He was very happy.

Then one day he had a massive stroke and almost died. For days he was totally unresponsive. Once he regained consciousness, he was often confused and his memory was bad. He knew there were 12 months in the year, but he could not name them. His body was totally paralyzed. With years of therapy, he was able to regain control of his left side. His memory came back. Eventually he moved from the nursing home to an apartment.

He said that all the philosophy he read before his stroke helped get him through the hard times. Prints of the art he made before the stroke is still generating income for him. He’s retrained himself to work with his left hand and is making new art too. In spite of his physical limitations, he’s in excellent spirits. Life is still interesting for him. After all, he still has his dream of art.

Sure beats the heck out of watching TV, waiting to die.



  1. Many times I have thought of what I might do if some physical calamity struck me, given my occupation(s). I know I can find a way to work around it if it should come, 'cuz I'm on'rey that way : ) Good on your friend. That's the spirit that formed this nation, and is far too lost these days. In my "retirement", as in "when I'm too crippled up to work any longer", I have plans. Knowledge is power, and I'm gathering all the knowledge I can. So long as my brain still works, I can create value...

  2. When my Dad retired at age 70 (had worked continuously since age 10), I thought he was going to go out of his tree with boredom. Uh uh, he LOVED classical music and with all of out of the house working or going to school, he could play it loud to heart's content. Old 78s, (including the red colored disks) he had a blast. He died after 5 years suddenly of heart attack, but those years were happy ones. I don't consider his life wasted at all - retirement should be happy years.

  3. That is a great story about your friend. Larry Niven told a similar story: his dream was to be a writer, so when he got good sized inheritance, enough to live on for about a year, he threw himself into writing and submitting his stuff to publishers full time. Just about the time his money ran out, he started getting stuff accepted.

    As to myself, I have absolutely no plans to retire. As long as my fingers, eyes, and brain still work, I should still be able to prepare taxes and to write. And a lot of colleagues in both my tax and real estate offices are way past "retirement" age.

    1. Good for you, as it looks like that's what you want to do. Too many people don't do what they want, or do what other people think they should do.

  4. I've been very satisfied since I retired!

    Had a job since I was 12, but I'm one of those fortunate folks that never gets bored! Like to read and study, do a few crafts, write poetry, and when I grow up...I want to learn to sail!

    Seems lately I just don't have enough time!

    1. You don't have to grow up to learn to sail. At least that's been my experience. Glad you are happy with retirement.

  5. I firmly believe not enough people pay attention to anything but earning that almightly dollar. Their lives revolve around it to the exclusion of other things that IMO have equal or more importance. My life without a great amount of money has more joy - despite my recent diagnosis - and more peace & creativity than any job I ever had. It is sad to hear anyone say they area bored. That condition comes from lack of vision & an inquisitive mind.

    When my mind seems foggy I look around & still recognize beauty, art, nature. It is comforting.

    1. Being able to take a moment and see the beauty around us is always a pleasure.

  6. I got laid off earlier this month, and am doing exactly what your artist friend did.