Something They Don’t Tell You About Retirement

They didn’t tell me anyway.

After years of meeting or trying to meet deadlines, you suddenly have very few reasons to do anything at any particular time. No more “status reports are due by 3 pm” or “performance reviews must be submitted by November 15”. No more “close of business on Friday”.

Not that anybody ever dies by failing to meet a deadline, but when you’re retired, almost everything can wait. The most onerous deadline I have these days is getting a book back to the library on time (and they make it so easy to renew – they probably feel as silly asking for ten or twenty cents as you do paying it).

Of course, on the assumption that having a deadline can lead to beneficial activity, you can give yourself deadlines. That sounds funny at first, like the all-powerful Queen who makes a law she supposedly has to obey. But some serious people, Immanuel Kant, for example, have argued that freedom and autonomy don’t “consist in being bound by no law, but by laws that are in some sense of one’s own making” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). 

You figure out what’s right and then you do it for that reason. You use one of those great calendar applications to set your deadline, pick a nice color and set up an appropriate reminder. I haven’t done this much yet, but it sounds like a really good way to add some urgency to retired life.

Plus, when it looks like you won’t meet your deadline, you can simply drag it to some future, more agreeable date. That’s freedom and autonomy in spades!

Which reminds me of what the comedian Rita Rudner once said, something like:

“It’s great being single. There’s so much freedom. If you want, you can buy a chocolate cake, eat a big slice of it for dinner and then throw the rest in the trash. Then, the next morning, you can take something out of the trash and have it for breakfast.”

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