As a kid, a couple of years ago, I looked forward to summer vacation. We chanted, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks” before hotfooting it out the door.
At least, that’s what my mind’s eye sees this morning.
We all know some things look one way from a distance and another way up close.
For instance, up close a dog is not a cat. Four legs, a tail and furry. But no, it’s a dog. Not the same as a cat. Just ask the cat.
Vacations and retirement are a bit like dogs and cats.
I don’t know how you see retirement, but when I retired I anticipated a nice and — if I may say so myself — well-earned vacation. I was wrong about the vacation part.
When I retired many of my Toronto co-workers reinforced this delusion.
“Have a great retirement up there in Sarnia,” they said, as though I were about to board the Vacation Choo Choo Express headed north to Orillia or North Bay or, I don’t know, Rainy River.
From the distant perspective of school and work and parenting, retirement does resemble an extended vacation. You don’t have to get out of bed at 6 a.m., although, trust me, you probably will.
But once the first fog of actual retirement blows away you begin to discern the differences.
First, there’s the clothing. For a vacation you buy nifty outfits for beach volleyball or scuba diving or goodness knows what. For retirement, the very first thing you do is purchase two extra pair of sweat pants and gym shorts. Not that you’ll be doing a lot of sweating or gyming, but they have elastic waists and generous proportions.
Second, completing virtuous vacation projects such as building a new deck is replaced by reading a book on the old deck, splinters and all. Or crawling around in the summer garden, complaining to whoever pretends to listen. Or maybe jogging a little. Maybe.
Third, when you retire, others reckon you now have nothing to do. So you can walk their dog, or take in their blue box or babysit their charming offspring.
My advice in this regard is to fake a persistent dry cough or feign a limp. Or express intemperate views on sensitive topics.
On vacation, then, step off that train to take a deep breath until hearing the “All Aboard.”
In retirement, keep moving, direct your headlight straight ahead and blow your own shiny new whistle. You’ll grow to love it.
Said another way:
My former life has chugged away
That train has left the station
And I feel 35 again
But, no, it ain’t vacation
Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer and the creator of a blog for new and renewing writers, bobswritefromthestart.blogspot.com