Monday, July 9, 2012

On Retirement

When it was announced that  I was retiring from medical practice (almost a year ago), well wishers came to congratulate me.  I thoroughly appreciated the good wishes, but didn't fully understand the congratulations part.

I was confused, thinking congratulations were generally reserved for individual feats such as winning the clinic hot dog eating contest or, say, reaching twenty years of sobriety, an act of courage.

Retirement didn't strike me as a feat but an inevitability, a kind of door closing.  So why all the back slapping?

In time,  I began to understand.  The congratulations were for going the distance,  for coming out of medical practice largely intact with an arsenal of cherished patients, colleagues and friends.

Good wishes were almost always followed by the same three questions:  what will you do with your time, where will you live and what travel plans did you have?   

When I smart-assly (I am one) responded that we had neither exciting travel plans nor any intention of moving, the predictable response was a mixture of sympathy and disappointment.

My standard response to the first question was that I planned to write a blog, take college courses and just knock around.  Nearly everyone seemed pleased and supportive until I got to the knocking around part, when smiles went missing, replaced by looks of incredulity and worry.   Lectures on the perils of inactivity and the rewards of a bulging calendar were numerous and mostly out of the same play book, leading me to want  to dive, head first, into the first available couch.

The message was clear - you are not living in an age of relaxation (notwithstanding the stampede of commercials for languorous cruises), you are  part of an age of competition and a technological culture of rapid fire updates, in which you spend considerably more time loading your musical files than listening to them. 

While the lectures and questions were indeed well intentioned they were so repetitive and predictable that I decided it was time for me to orchestrate a game changer.

So, resorting to fiction and whimsy, I emerged as Special Agent Blogspeak.

My shtick was to tell questioners, who wondered what I would do in retirement,  that  I was being heavily recruited by the FBI for a senior management position.  To my utter astonishment more than a few people seemed to believe it  possible that the FBI might want my services.  I was flattered and unrepentant.

Now well into my retirement, the special agent ruse  has come back to haunt me. The problem arises out of my college classes where  I have had almost no success in connecting with my classmates.  For example, no one has invited me to the Thursday night bar hopping nor was  I  invited on any of the spring break trips.  No one talks to me during class breaks.

My classmates apparently don't trust me, believing,  I suspect,  that I  must be an undercover agent for the Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Bureau.  Why else, they might reason, would a gray haired, senior citizen come back to the classroom other than to snoop and snitch?

Determined to be accepted, I have thought about getting a tattoo, which just might win me some trust.  I'm told by experts that a neck location billboards best.  The inscription could be decisive.  For now, a catchy and convincing one might be 'anarchy now and forever'. 

If this works, I can confidently say my retirement is going well.  Among other things, I take walks, plunder the library for books, have hot chocolate dates with friends and have successfully deflected suggestions by family and friends that I get a personal trainer.