“Congratulations on your retirement.” Now I’ve reached the time when I’m actually receiving these best wishes, they strike me as very odd. After all, I haven’t won anything.
Well done for just getting old, surviving to get the pension? Still, the sentiments are definitely better than those hopes "for a long and healthy retirement". Thanks for alerting me to the alternatives.
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Surviving to reach the home straight does make you think about the meaning of it all. In his famous essay, The Station, Robert J Hastings compares life to a train journey. He advises us not to focus on the illusion of reaching a particular station in life (graduation, promotion, retirement) when everything will fall fulfillingly into place.
Instead, he recommends us to concentrate on the here and now: just enjoy the journey. It's a great philosophy. As he notes, fear of the future and regret over the past rob us of the present. I only wish I had spent the last six decades putting all of that into practice. Now it's probably too late: all that wasted time, all those illusions. If only I could have. Sorry, focus on the now man, enjoy the journey!
We should live in the now because we never know what lies ahead. Which brings me to another gripe. You'll remember that in the film, Forrest Gump tells us that "my momma always said life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get." Really?
Well, Forrest, boxes of chocolates in the States must be very different from the ones over here. On the back of the lid of every box I've had, it tells you exactly what you're gonna get!
Wouldn't it be great if life was like that? Shall I make this choice? Let's see. "Leave your current job for a new one and you will soon be made redundant and spend the next decade in poverty." Heavens, not to my taste. I'll leave that well alone. What about this one? "Stay with your current partner and you will experience a lifetime of bliss." Yes. I'll definitely have that. No, Forrest, unfortunately, life is not like a box of chocolates.
However, I have do have one problem with Hastings' philosophy. Now I've reached the station called Retirement, when I look down the line I can't see any more stations. In the distance, there only is a dark tunnel and from here I can't see any light at the end of it.
So I'm currently on the platform of station Retirement pretending to tie my shoelaces and studying timetables, ignoring the driver's call of All aboard. When I'm finally forced back on, I'll be shouting at the driver: "Whoa! Take it easy, nice and slow now, choo choo, (philosophical trains always have a steam engine), nice and slow."
A train journey? A box of chocolates? I came across a better definition of life on a trip to the Highlands. I got talking to a very ancient gentleman, a volunteer guide at a castle. I was genuinely interested in the history of the place so we had a good chat.
Eventually, he revealed his personal philosophy. "Life," he said, "life is like a toilet roll. The nearer you get to the end, the faster it runs out." What I like about this philosophy is its immediacy. I don't go on a train journey every day but toilet rolls. Mmm, let's not go there.
But everyday I'm reminded of the precious time that's going: well, down the pan, so to speak.
Hastings advises us to count the stars, go barefoot more often, eat more ice cream, watch more sunsets. Great advice, I'll do all that. But can I keep on enjoying a wee moan too?
No, I'm not going to travel more now I'm retired. I hate hot places.