I’m Not Retired, Just Re-treaded
Do you remember all those old people who used to irritate you by driving their cars too slowly or by walking with their shopping carts right in the middle of the aisle? At the time, all you could think of was getting around them, right? You know the ones I mean… the ones who were always reminiscing about times you didn’t know or care about? Well, guess what. I looked in the mirror the other day, and I have become one of them! It is not that easy to boom like a baby boomer anymore. I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. But here I am, and I have to make the best of it.
The idea of retirement, or in my case, selective reduction, was not supposed to be in my vocabulary. I figured I would probably retire in my eighties. I used to design restaurants and lived in southern California. At the time of my retirement, most of my friends were divorcing their wives or vise versa, and marrying a spouse the square root of their age. Perhaps they were attempting to recapture their youth? My problem was I didn’t notice I was getting older. Age crept up on me without my awareness. What I did notice was the addition of aches and pains, gray hairs, and as I previously mentioned, thoughts of the past.
Since the average salary for the work you do after you retire is usually about one third of what you previously made, I have been attempting to re-invent myself, or stated in a more respectable way, to retread myself. No, I don’t want to drive a bus for a hotel to pick up customers at the airport or drop them off at restaurants! No, I don’t want to greet people at the front door of a retail establishment! And, no, I don’t want to do all night security for some establishment that will treat me like a number rather than a person. Though all these jobs I have mentioned are honorable, and keep bread on the table, they are just not for me.
It has been fulfilling to look for new and different vocational avenues. Through volunteering to work with challenged children, teaching them how to ride horses, or rekindling my desire to increase my stamina through weight lifting, attending a Navy Seal training called TRX, or swimming, I have been able to maintain my sanity while being retired and unemployed.
What has been, for me, the most phenomenal and rewarding challenge, is my interest in learning to ballroom dance at the YMCA. I became a widower three years ago, and for awhile I was not sure what my future might bring. I had relocated my wife and youngest daughter to Washington state so that my wife, my son, and his family could see each other more often. Though we had never been on the eastern side of Washington state before, we found ourselves on the border of Idaho, in a beautiful little community called Liberty Lake. While I had always wanted to learn the fundamentals of dance, for most of forty years, I was predominantly a human post that my wife would dance around. I barely moved my feet. Not a very classy dance move but adequate for my wife’s needs.
After my wife’s death, I discovered through the newspaper that my community had different activities available to all ages. I found that dancing lessons, at economical prices, were available. What amazed me was that there were actually younger people than I who were klutzy dancers too and that we shared a similar need to unklutz ourselves. What also amazed me was the camaraderie that existed between those of us who were on a quest to learn and perfect the different types of dances. No, I had no desire to become a member of “Dancing with the Stars” or any other talent show. I just wanted to learn to dance.
With the exception of my close neighbors, I hardly knew anyone in our new locale. But once I began dancing, I found something magical occurring. The other dance students were becoming my friends. And one of them, who is far younger than I am, is now far more than a friend to me. We have a little group now that we call “Team Five.” We dine, dance, and travel together, something I never thought would be possible in my advancing years. But it has happened, and the pain of loss I felt before has been replaced by laughter like I never would have believed was possible.
Though each of us comes from a different background, our love for dance has bonded us as friends. We are constantly in touch with each other, even when we are not dancing or dining. And our interest in dancing keeps each of us aware that we don’t have to necessarily perfect our dancing skills but that we must enjoy what we know and keep that as the most important feature of our dancing.
I also am quite aware that constructive teaching of dance, with laughter included, is a beautiful art, which my present teacher does so well. Persistence in attempting to learn something is important, especially when it is being taught well. But to enjoy and roll with the flow of learning to dance, even in making a mistake and eventually resolving it, is the beauty of letting one’s hair down, no matter how much is left at this stage in life, and just living it well.
So, I am retreading, even though much of it is in my dance shoes, and I am re-inventing myself each day in areas I would not have thought possible in my younger years. The simplicity of friendship and laughter is all one needs from others. Go after it rather than waiting for it to come to you. I was lucky that dance was my conduit. What’s yours?
I have been a member of the YMCA since September of 2011. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to take dance classes in Spokane, with my lady, Shelly, from our dear friend, Diane Davidson, who teaches ballroom dance downtown. All my main exercise program is at the Valley “Y”, with my weight trainer, Randy, and my TRX trainer, Sandie. They are wonderful individuals and understand that a guy in his sixties can only do so much! I also swim a good deal at the “Y’ each week. I am very fortuante to have so many good people, not only at the front desk, but within the entire organization, who are quite supportive of member’s needs!
If it hadn’t been for Diane’s suggestion to dance downtown, I probably would not have become a member for a good while. Now I am completely sold on the YMCA!