Being Retired is Kind of Like Being Benjamin Button
We went to see the 3:20 showing of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" on Thursday. It's a story of a man that was born physically as an old man, who then ages backward, getting younger and stronger as the years go by.
After the movie ended and we started to leave the theater, I looked around and noticed all the gray hair. As is usual at the weekday matinee, there were only about 10 other people in the theater, and they were all about 20 years our senior.
I whispered to Doug, "Look around, doesn't it kind of make you feel like Benjamin Button? We're here at the matinee with all our fellow retirees, but we're in 45-year-old bodies while they are in 60-year-old bodies."
It struck me, that now that I am retired, it does kind of feel like I'm aging backward. I get to be Benjamin Button, although in my case, just mentally, not physically.
Retirement generally feels like one big summer vacation (although it spans all weather conditions.) I hadn't realized it before, but the responsibility of a job makes you feel OLD. Not having the burden of that responsibility hasn't just made me feel less stress, it's made me feel younger!
I've reverted to the night-owl rhythm of my youth. Without the demand of being at my desk bright and early, my natural tendency is to stay up until midnight. During my working life, I thought I was doing very well to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. Now I find I'm sleeping like a teenager, getting 8 or 9 (or even 10!) hours of deep sleep each night, not even counting the occasional nap.
When I was working, I couldn't be bothered with learning about the social networking tools of the younger generation. It's probably no coincidence that my most active Facebook friend now is 13 years old. And as I've said before, most of my working friends have no idea what Twitter is. Not only do I feel younger socializing electronically, I've reconnected with some old high-school friends, which has transported me back in time, reintroducing me to both them and the teenager I once was.
It doesn't stop with technology, I'm also enjoying old-fashioned hobbies from my younger days, knitting, sewing, reading, and even trying my hand at the piano again. I feel young when I go each week, notebook in hand, to my writing class; and when, after procrastinating all week I'm cramming my homework into the wee hours the night before class.
Even having to be more budget conscious brings me back, nostalgically, to my scrimping-and-saving days. In the early days of our marriage, Doug and I would spend whole days out working in the yard. After a full day of sunshine and exhaustion, we would relax with a glass of wine and admire our handiwork. As the years got busier, it was just easier to hire someone to do the heavy-clipping. But now that we're back to the do-it-yourself lifestyle, enjoying that glass of wine while gazing at the view we created reminds me of those early honeymoon days of our marriage.
I read an article in the New York Times about the happiness couples enjoy together when their nest is empty after all the years of raising children. While I don't have kids, I can imagine that retired couples might feel younger at this phase of life as they are transported back to the early days of their marriages, before they assumed the responsibilities of child-rearing.
You'd think that since retirement comes toward the end of your life, it would make you feel older, not younger to be retired. But instead of feeling like I'm at the end of the road, I feel just like I did at the beginning of the road, like my whole life is out in front of me. And that makes me feel like I'm younger than I was at the same time last year, just like being Benjamin Button.