Is everyday a Saturday?
My son and I were talking about retirement recently and what it really feels like. “Do you have to think about what day it is?” he asked. Actually I do. When I worked, Monday was back to work day; Tuesdays often meant leadership meetings, etc. So I often got up having an idea of what the day held in store for me. In retirement, except for Thursday, I have no defined task by which to identify the day. Thursday is defined by our Italian class. Other than that, as one retired physician once told me, “Every day’s a Saturday.”
My son and I both laughed about the universal “Sunday afternoon” feeling – the idea that the weekend can’t possibly be about to end already, can it? No matter how much one loves the job or school, in work life the fleeting of the weekend always comes as a somewhat wistful surprise. In fact just recently, my granddaughter, age 6 and in first grade, made reference this past Sunday to going back to school on Monday. “It’s already time to go back to school,” she said, and she’s a girl who loves school. She’s already caught by the end-of-weekend reality. No such feeling in retirement.
My working friends invariably laugh when I tell them when we’re going on vacation. “Vacation from what?” they say. “From what has now become our day to day; from this scenery and experiences to different scenery and experiences,” I laugh and answer. Or how about the working friend who calls me at noon or 1:00 in the afternoon, and, when I answer, jovially says, “Oh, you’re up!” Haha – very funny, my dear. It’s true, though, retirement and the livin’ indeed is easy.
After 43 years of work life, I’m still pretty much in the honeymoon phase of my freedom. But lest you think that retirement means just blowing in the wind (kind of does, happily) I do have obligations that I have voluntarily undertaken that require dedication, thought and some work – out of class Italian homework, for example. Writing this blog on a reasonably regular schedule, for another example. In the fall, I plan to join one of the many book groups in which I can participate as a member of the local American Association of University Women. I love the idea that the assigned books in a book group are often ones that I would pass by if left to my own devices. I’ve found that I want just enough structure that I feel somewhat productive but not so much that I feel burdened.
The King of Cosmos
Last week, my husband, son, daughter-in-law and I went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist disquised as a rock star who is head of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Anyone who has seen him on a talk show or on his television series Cosmos, understands his easy, playful, comedic style as he’s describing the intricasies of the universe (or the multiple universes, that he posited are likely out there). Going to this event fits in nicely with my desire in retirement to stretch beyond the usual forms of entertainment or knowledge that I enjoy and learn something new.
The Chicago Theater was sold out and he stayed on stage for the better part of three hours, educating us from topics on the Big Bang to black holes to quarks to quantam mechanics. I know, it sounded way above my head too, believe me. I never even took introductory physics in high school. For people like me, he wrote a book called Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, for which this presentation was a part of his book tour. I don’t want to know the minutiae; I won’t understand it anyway. The book, a signed copy of which was given to every person (or couple) in the audience, is basically a Cliff Notes to bring us up to speed on the major discoveries behind our universe in readable, understandable English. I don’t know how he’s viewed in the physics community; it seems sometimes that serious experts who become TV personalities often run into criticism from their peers in academia, medicine or science. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with bringing esoteric information to the masses if it’s done well. You’re not going to come away knowing how to split atoms – his goal is just to make us fluent enough to be reasonably conversant (should we want to be) when the next cosmic headline comes along.
Like any rock star, NDT has his groupies – those college-age, middle age or senior followers who try to see him wherever he appears. I found that to be true of those who were in this audience because those sitting next to me told me that they also came the last year when he came to Chicago. We were surrounded by college students – to the front, side and back of us – cheering whenever he mentioned a theory that they had studied with their professors: reminiscent of The Beatles in concert singing I Want to Hold Your Hand to screaming teenagers back in the day. There were also children and seniors who asked impressively pointed, educated questions for Tyson at the end of the show.
If it all sounds too nerdy for words, it wasn’t. At least not to me or my family. Granted, you needed to have a smidgen of curiosity about the beginnings and evolution of the universe to even go to the presentation but you required no expertise whatsoever in the subject matter to find it a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Until next time…….