How Does Retirement Work?

February 13, 2023 at 4:48 p.m. Abbe Rolnick

Abbe Rolnick


I have to confess that I’m guilty of a crime so unfathomable that I fear you all will banish me to isolation, call me a blasphemous idiot, or worse yet ignore my breach with approved behavior and make my rambling thoughts vanish. For many years I have been confused with the concept of work and more recently with the concept of retirement. It is the same confusion I have with studying chemistry, biology, physics and philosophy. The more I delve into the subjects the more they seem to blend, with the differences melting away. I can no longer differentiate between what is alive, dead, in the past or the future. Einstein welcomed the idea of Quantum Physics. I wonder if he would approve of Quantum Retirement.

Most of us work all of our lives with the belief that at some point we will retire, and life will take care of itself. I truly believe that we have it all wrong. Retirement is an opportunity to work in a more focused way. The basic misconception stems from the word itself. Work has been confused with the ability to make money. The true definition of work has more to do with the expenditure of energy to transfer a force into something other than what it is.
The question I have for myself is what is my life work, what is that I am trying to achieve daily, what is it that I am trying to create. I can’t ignore the financial aspect of making a living, but I can’t afford to wait until retirement to do my life work.

Part of the confusion stems from how we view life. Our approach is as if there is a clear separation of stages, as if there is a continual ending of our life, not a perpetual beginning, opening, renewal. I don’t describe myself in terms of my job, my livelihood, or how much money I am making or not. Our life should be seen as a perpetual attempt at creating a “work of art” that unfolds as we mature.

Retirement in today’s world has been defined by how much money you have put away to live. Every article about retirement is wrapped around the idea of financial planning. Retiring becomes synonymous with 401ks and vacation homes. It is as if one is expected to withdraw from society and not work at living; that the whole purpose of our life is to work for monetary gain and to have enough money to do nothing.

My crime is that I refuse to withdraw from life. I will work my entire life solely for selfish enrichment, measured by my ability to learn, laugh, give, see, feel, and most importantly understand. In my retirement I will have more freedom to direct my energy towards more of what makes me feel alive. For me there is no separation. Retiring isn’t a withdrawal from society but an affirmation of all that we have worked for our entire lives.

Abbe Rolnick grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore and lives in the Pacific Northwest. After attending Boston University, she lived in Puerto Rico, where she owned a bookstore. She is the owner of Sedro Publishing. Her writings include three novels in the Generation of Secrets Series, as well as Cocoon of Cancer: An Invitation to Love Deeply, Tattle Tales: Essays and Stories Along the Way, and Bubbies Magical Hair. To learn more about her writings, Abbe's Notes and Abbe's Ruminations, visit her website, Abbe welcomes questions and requests for speaking engagements and would love to hear from you.

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