This Single Man’s Observation About Retirement…

I’m not one to talk, but God only knows what a most coveted state of being ‘retirement’ offers. We’re solicited to plan, save and invest for the retirement years. But, there’s more to it than words permit. There is the working towards, and for, and for the fortunate it is at best exciting. To the not-so-fortunate or unfortunate fortunates it can be daunting and debilitating, from self-centredness to self-sacrificing for the well being of others just shy of martyrdom.

My recently departed vocation started out as an exploration into the unknown founded on a suggestion from a friend, at-that-time. I had ventured through a myriad of occupations,unsolicited and solicited before this exploration took passionate hold of me. Upon arrival in this fair country to reunite with a mother missing-in-action, who departed five years earlier leaving a sister and brother of six and eight to the guardianship of a school teacher and the estranged father’s parents home a year preceding their emigration, I was summarily traumatized with an onslaught of jobs intended to minimize the financial strange of a single mother-of-colour raising two pubescent children in a society other than one of their origins. The civil rights process was in full swing into which these unsuspecting naive mindsets were inserted unprepared. The struggle for survival ensued, but at the instinctive unconscious levels by which their innate instinctive preconditioning would prove beneficial. It appears their misfortune of being left within an unsuspected minimal care facility for the first-four years proved beneficial as that stay didn’t disaffect the mother’s early nurturing disciplines.

Son/Brother  -Father-  Daughter/Sister

Son/Brother -Father- Daughter/Sister

It was that mother-nurturing which was rife with inconsistencies, random spontaneity and much love. After her departure relocations occurred, but the siblings clung to one another in psychological support while the changes swirled around and they adapted accordingly with the sister obtaining the lions share being her father’s daughter, the younger of the two and I was drafted into service of older-brother and protecter. This duty I performed, as best a youth of eight growing into thirteen over five years left primarily to his own devices amidst four dwelling relocations in five years could. Still, hanging by a thread, psychologically, I managed to survive until the notice-of-departure was known and emigration was imminent. Unknown to me at the time was the fact that I had been losing my sense-of-self which proved beneficial albeit backhandedly, because I was unaware of its meaning and implications. This, fifty years later and seven years into retirement, I’ve begun to comprehend which makes clear the outcomes which mystified me.

We arrived, reunited with mother and matriarchal relations but the dynamics proved problematic and a series of relocations ensued. Our mother, to her credit, didn’t believe after five years separation, upon reunion, her children were to be in service to her family’s housekeeping. The first place-of-choice was short-lived because I was growing into adolescence and the basement apartment proved a mite challenging for my growth. Now, I say ‘choice’ because my sister and I were unaware of the social conditions of the sixties for people-of-colour in North America, much less from what we were semi-insulated in our native land. Our next relocation was somewhat longer but proved unsuitable. We found another location which lasted two-years and was the ideal location for that period of our young lives. We later relocated northward for about a year before moving on to another location further north to another spot which proved ideal for that time in our lives, my final year in high school and first attempt at a university education.  

Initial Rollei exposure..

Initial Rollei exposure..

Backing up a bit, upon arrival at age thirteen my fist job was to deliver phoned-in prescription drugs. This I attempted by bicycle on snowy streets, wearing my newly acquired coat from Honest Ed’s but wearing my mother’s winter boots as she could not afford one for my growing feet. My job was to provide for that supplementing whatever she could afford, given the strain of expenses on her salary at the time. Other jobs followed, I lost the first for getting lost on deliveries being an immigrant and unfamiliar with the route I was expected to know, for which my mother had not prepared me save somehow acquiring the position. Each time I lost a job she was able to find me one, usually by contacts she made on-the-job as a nurse. I was able to work after-school and/or weekends, and/or during the summer holidays. Fortunately, the discrimination was subtle compared to what transpired south of the border, and I was able to find work albeit at minimum-wage. 

I relished the stimulation the various job activities provided which suited our erratic and unstable upbringing experienced. Its random spontaneity made any ensuing administrivia-difficulties bearable in spite of the threat and pain they caused. Many had commented on ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the enduring behaviour displayed as they would not have been as accommodating, patient and/or tolerant. Well, the school-of-hard knocks had supplied us with the resources in spite of conditions, economic/financial and social, or because of such.

Championship years developing...

Championship years developing…

At first, all confrontations and oppositions were sensibly and reasonably resolved which, of course, implied the mindset of those on the ‘other side’ of the equation were similarly predisposed. The adventure into the vocation which unexpectedly lasted close-to-thirty years, thirty is you add the year-of-study in qualifying. The growing social disregard for personal responsibility and lack of accountability grew from ‘challenging-to-critical’ threatening levels. I am of course speaking of a vocation in the ‘people’ business, education, of which society is in dire need yet has a paradoxical regard.

Approaching one of many pivotal points during my career, at this one I received notification that early retirement was permissible which I tacitly disregarded. It didn’t end there. The threat levels grew from low-to-high in disproportion with the growing aforementioned social disregard, and the retirement offer grew to be a plausible option.

I began to notice myself counting down the years, which was never a construct or consideration in previous years. I had been ignoring the retirement-option, but with colleagues opting for similar offerings and voicing the timely approach of their desired/required retirement qualifications, it became a disconcerting matter on which I began an internal debate. 

The preceding in concert with other life challenging opportunities, cultivating various attendant stressors, grew definitive and indelible impressions. The ‘option’ began to appear a viable alternative to my survival. Sadly, I continued making efforts to sustain myself in the profession in spite of obvious threatening waywardness, failing systemic support resulting in increased collegial isolationist behaviour and personal health warnings which I failed to recognize as indicative. Anxiety and Hyper-Tension set-up shop in the fibres of my being, whereupon I unexpected collapsed and hospitalization  and testings followed. 

Out of hospital, after four-days of tests which proved a healthy body sustaining anxious and hyper-tension with threatening attendant ailments, I decided the ‘option’ for early-retirement was in order that I may spend my remaining years in a more creative and meaningful way. Most of all, alive with options of enjoying the remainder of my life within reduced pension limits.

Unknowingly, in spite of my basic financial needs being manageable, there were unsatisfactory conditions, Catch-22s, to this incoming ‘phase-of-life’ which arrived unexpectedly and unsolicited. It appears these conditions were waiting their turn-to-challenge, either destroying or strengthening or both according to my predispositions.

It appears my choice for Wisdom in adolescence has had more far reaching implications than expected or imagined. I mean, what teenager could fathom the depths of Wisdom and how it is attained? Well, as the saying goes, “Be careful what your wish for.”    God protect me from the things I want!  

Visiting Las Olas, FL  '08

Visiting Las Olas, FL ’08


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