It’s the week after our Fourth of July celebration, and I’m still pondering the meaning of retirement freedom and independence. In fact, I’m pondering it even more so since yesterday’s post.
Although I was not willing to do the “far, far better thing” by vacating my position a few years ago for someone I knew, haven’t I done the “far, far better thing” now, by retiring, albeit for someone as yet unnamed, someone, ostensibly, I do not know?
Could I not have selfishly held on to the job, stuck it out, determined, as long as I was vertical, never to leave?
And, truthfully, no matter when the decision to retire takes place, isn’t there always some measure of sacrifice, whether intended or not?
In the final analysis, isn’t our Social Security System meant to encourage, to incentivize, if you will, the voluntary “far, far better” sacrificial retirement described yesterday, offering– instead of a fixed number of weeks of unemployment insurance benefits–a lifetime of pension paybacks for a prior lifetime of income deductions?
To a very small point, incentivizing retirement reminds me of “There Were Ten in the Bed,” a children’s nursery rhyme movement song, in which the overcrowding felt by the “little one” is remedied by the successive rolling over and falling out of the bed of the other (presumably “older”) ones.
Incentivizing retirement makes openings, allows us to give up our place, to make space for the youngest ones to have a chance to work; hopefully, allowing us to land on our feet, or at least cushioning our fall out of bed, not making us hitting our heads, like the five little monkeys, sung about in another nursery rhyme.
Isn’t that a marvelous gift of being an American worker? Although the Bill of Rights does not name “freedom to work” as one of our rights, isn’t the assumption that we can choose to work the basis of fulfilling our signature “American dream”?
So, incentivized retirement, it seems to me is gift for both generations—for the “new [working] generation” to whom the “[productivity] torch” has been passed, in playing off President Kennedy’s famous Inaugural words, as well as for the “old” generation, for those retirees passing on the torch.
And as I ponder what American freedom to work really means, I realize that depriving people of that human and humanizing gift to choose how to spend their gifts and talents in the service of self and others through earning a living is a terrible thing suffered in past generations, as well as today, here in America and around the globe, based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, or creed.
For the freedom I have had as an American woman to labor (and to rest) and now to rest (and to labor) in this great country is a blessing that I am only beginning to truly understand, and therefore to appreciate.
To the person who assumes the position I have surrendered: God bless you. May your labors bring you much fulfillment, and when the time comes for you to surrender the position to someone else, may you be at peace and experience fruitful rest.
How does “freedom to work” resonate with you? What are your thoughts?