A man I know, a few years ahead of me down the trail of life, always urged me to retire as soon as I possibly could. He was from the Chicago area. He had worked for the railroad. He took his retirement at 62 and wasted no time in getting to the north woods, where his heart is. He lives simply, regularly sharing his skills as a volunteer with several organizations.
We had met through serendipity, when he won a trip down Wisconsin's Brule River with me. I managed to nearly catapult him from the bow of the canoe when we careened off a boulder in a set of rapids. We avoided capsizing and completed the run upright and dry.
I kept thinking about his advice as I contemplated when to retire. Ultimately, Phyllis and I decided that would not be our course of action. I worked several years beyond his recommendation and a few years beyond eligibility for Social Security. I haven't regretted my decision, but time may prove that my friend's advice was sage. It's all calculated risk, and frankly, unknown variables make it hard to calculate.
I always liked the philosophy of Colin Fletcher, the British author and outdoorsman, who said one should act as if he might live forever but know he could die before lunch. So far, that seems to be working, although as I write this, it's only 8:30 a.m.
Another friend, who retired a couple of years before me, has a pat answer when people ask him how his retirement is going: "It's the best job I've ever had," he tells them.
I ran into another retired friend just a few weeks after I quit working last April. He told me his adjustment to retirement had been seamless.
"I woke up, had a cup of coffee and that was it. I was adjusted," he said.
Before I stepped away from full-time work, another retired friend texted me his Top 10 reasons for appreciating retirement:
• Monday mornings. Followed closely by Tuesday mornings. And so on.
• No meetings.
• Fishing. Hunting.
• Errands on days when the working masses are not doing errands.
• Losing track of what day it is.
• Doing the crossword after the Jumble.
• Reading during the middle of the day.
• Walks during the day.
His assessment has proved mostly prophetic.
I would add just a couple of items to that list. One is the nearly complete absence of stress. Few deadlines and commitments. So much less on the to-do list each day.
Second, the freedom to rekindle or deepen longtime friendships in meaningful ways - paddling in the canoe country, backpacking in the West or simply making daily hikes on local trails. One of those friendships is with the woman I married.
Time. What an amazing resource.
And as a wise friend once said, "Time is all we have."
Sam Cook is a freelance columnist for the Duluth News Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook at facebook.com/SamCook.