Retired, with “Air Quotes”

When I stopped working the occasion was celebrated with five different retirement parties. Those were just the ones to which I was invited.

I didn’t get the gold watch, but somewhere along the line I received air-quotes. Whenever I mention being “Retired” I’m required to raise both hands and wiggle two fingers to indicate that I’m not “really” retired. At first, I didn’t want to tell anyone that I “retired,” but just “changed jobs.” Because it was true– I had picked up a magazine gig and was producing several articles a month. The printed page had become my friend.

But it was hard to call it a “Job,” because I had no co-workers and I’d never once met an editor that I worked with. I was an “Independent Contractor” and received my assignments by email. Paper checks came in the mail. It was a bit like being a secret agent– no one knew I was on assignment unless I told them. To the ordinary observer it just looked like I was driving around. Unless I was careful I could spend more on gas than I was taking in. That’s not a job, it’s a form of insanity.

Of course, there are other forms of compensation than the monetary. Being an independent contractor meant I had no ordinary fringe benefits like insurance or pension contributions, but there were intangibles. Lots of them, things like freedom and self-expression. I could say whatever I wanted, as long as my editor okayed it.

Then I changed “jobs” again. Now I am into “property redevelopment” with my son. Most people refer to it as “Flipping.” But I prefer to call it “real estate stuff.” We are working on a 3-BR house in the suburbs, and it’ll be on the market “soon.” This is satisfying work, because i get to use real tools like wrecking bars, paint rollers, and a chop saw. And I get to wear a “respirator” whenever I want. But no checks come in the mail until the house sells. So it mostly feels like a job when I plop down on the couch at the end of the day.

What does “Retired” really mean anyway? I’m still thinking about that.

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