“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” — Ann Landers
I will never forget receiving an invitation to join the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). I just turned 50 years old. Yes, I was mildly insulted but most of all I was surprised.
Some years ago my brother, Ken, told me not to feel uncomfortable when people started asking me about when I was going to retire. He said it is just part of normal conversation when people get to be our age. I had already become used to the cashier at O’Grady’s Restaurant volunteering to give me the 10 percent senior’s discount without asking to look at my driver’s license for proof of age.
But on June 30, 2016, at 70 years of age my retirement from the University of Valley Forge became official. The UVF Board of Trustees graciously gave me the title of President Emeritus without responsibility for this year. Evie and I will continue to live in the old farmhouse here on campus until we move around March 1, 2017.
As full-time members of AARP, we have experienced all kinds of changes. Perhaps the most striking has been the realization that most evenings we don’t need to set our alarm for the next morning. And since someone told us that retirement is like having six Saturdays and a Sunday, whatever we plan to do “today,” if we don’t finish it, we always have “tomorrow.”
Please do not misunderstand me. We are not retirement experts. We are novices in every way. But if you were to ask us how it is going, we would both quickly reply, “Absolutely wonderful. We love this new season.”
Shortly after I first became the president of UVF I heard about the advice given by a president of my alma mater, Wheaton College. He said, “In your first year as president, you run absolutely as fast as you can. After that first year, you pick up speed.” After nearly 20 years in this role I must admit there is some truth in those words.
At times Evie would ask me if I was “caught up” with my work. Over the years I usually answered, “I am never caught up.” Most leadership responsibility is like farming. You hardly ever hear a farmer say, “I am finished” or “caught up” at the end of a day. Farmers just stop when the day is over and resume the next day.
As a result, when we entered this new world of AARP, we decided to initially focus on rest, refreshing, and re-charging our physical, spiritual and emotional batteries. We are discovering this kind of personal renewal takes time. And when we are prone to feel guilty, we think of Parker J. Palmer’s words, “Self-care is never a selfish act.”
We know this season will come to an end. We have friends who retired and many of them counsel us, though, “Don’t do as we did. We took on too much. We have been way too busy.”
As we have pondered this new season, we are considering these three words: drift; driven; deliberate. We do not want to over-commit ourselves and become driven to tasks which obligate us beyond that which is practical of this season in our lives.
On the other hand, we also do not want to drift along aimlessly and meaninglessly without any purpose or objective.
We would, however, like to be deliberate by seeking God’s wisdom as to what we do and do not do by trying to keep our personal and public lives in healthy balance. We are not sure what that will look like but we anxiously anticipate the creative adventures of discovering together what that means.
Regarding retirement … this is as far as we’ve come.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is president emeritus of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Connect via firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer, www.DrDonMeyer.com, Twitter and Instagram: @DrDonMeyer.