Retiring the Idea of Waiting for Retirement

When I was in high school, a family friend of ours died quite suddenly and unexpectedly in her mid-50s. She was the mother of a close friend of mine and our moms had been good friends throughout our whole lives.

This woman was very devoted to her family and to her work. She seemed to do everything in order. And yet, she was also someone who seemed to always be waiting for retirement to do several of the things she longed to do most.

She would often say, “When I retire…” and express her hopes and dreams for what she would do with greater leisure, time, and money.

It was striking, then, when she died relatively young because one of the things that hit me most as a high schooler was that she was never going to do these things she had put off.

Similarly, many of my parents’ friends were waiting for retirement to finally travel and cash out some of their long-earned savings on the experiences they desired to have for years.

But then, for some, their retirement coincided with the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns and these couples were unable to travel after all.

My parents, by contrast, had spent three months in the U.S. and Mexico immediately before the pandemic because they always choose to do what they enjoy imminently and do not have conceits about necessarily being able to do such things down the road.

I have certainly followed my parents approach in this respect and, of course, this is also borne out of the experience I had of seeing our family friend pass away relatively young.

Throughout my life, many people have asked me about what’s next. However, I have truly not presumed that there would be a “next”. I always thought that I would die young, like my historical friends. Like a Jew. Like a Pole. Like a Christian. It just seemed more likely or, at the very least, clearly possible.

What reminders have you had not to delay what you can do imminently?

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