Saturday, September 25, 2010

Retirement Pastimes—Maybe you CAN Go Home Again

One of the more pleasant aspects of retirement planning is wondering how you’ll spend all that free time. Certainly I’ll write more, but I look upon that as a new career, not something I’ll do with my “spare” time.

Reading is one option. I never have enough time for that now. It may not be the most sensible choice for me, though. My eyes are so bad that I wear three and a quarter magnifiers around my neck at all times and keep spares in drawers throughout the house. I tire easily when I read; or more accurately, reading puts me to sleep.

Many retirees turn to volunteer work to fill their days. I’ll be leaving a full-time job in the non-profit world, so volunteering isn’t likely to top my list of ways to pass the time.

I could release my inner geek and renew my youthful relationship with the alto saxophone. Some of my favorite memories involve the high school band and the friends I made there. Is it realistic to take up saxophone after age 65? While many folks think I’m full of hot air, that’s not the same as productive wind. (Wipe those smirks off your faces.)

Picture this: Me, walking around with a reed in my mouth, working to get it to the right softness so it won’t squeak or split. I’m wearing a special necklace holder for my mouthpiece—the kind they give you for your glass at a wine tasting. A serious sax player always has his own mouthpiece handy, just in case he runs across a sax somewhere. I’ve actually had dreams about this. Maybe you really CAN go home again, but I doubt it.

It’s weird enough seeing a woman my age wearing a USB jump drive on a cord around her neck. Then there’s the leash with my reading glasses, and occasionally one with my driving glasses. Add another one with my sax mouthpiece, and I’ll be the butt of more jokes than a bag lady. If I’m going to be known as a trendsetter, I certainly don’t want it to be as the leash nerd.

That leaves the broad area of “taking up a hobby” as the most promising option for spending my free time. Over the years, I’ve dabbled in a variety of hobbies. Retirement will offer me the opportunity to revisit one or more of these. My shelves are filled with books on what have historically been called “distaff” arts – sewing, knitting, crocheting, needlework. It shouldn’t be difficult to pick those up again, if you don’t count my poor eyesight and arthritic fingers.

Turns out there are myriad TV shows on these topics. I happened to catch one when I was working from home one weekday last winter. I went into the kitchen to make some tea and turned on the TV. I distractedly clicked through the channels, curious to see what was on at that retired-people’s time of day. I caught the last gasp of what appeared to be a sewing show. The hostess was what my mother would have politely called “matronly.” And in her best Julia Child’s voice, she signed off with enormous enthusiasm: “Thank you for joining us today to learn about stripes. Next time—checks!!”

A fleeting vision of my post-retirement: Plopped in front of a wide screen TV. Pad and pencil at the ready to take notes on the next edition of the Julia Child of Sewing. Thinking: “I hope I live long enough to see the show on polka dots. If there’s one thing I’d regret if I were to die tomorrow, it’s that I only made it through plaids.”

Shoot me now.

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