“How are you enjoying retirement, Tom?” This is the question I get everywhere I meet old friends and colleagues. “I read that nice article about your retirement in the local paper and see that the mayor even declared in a proclamation that this event was to be honored in the city as ‘Dr. Thomas R. McDaniel Day,’ and I see that the governor awarded you the Order of the Silver Crescent for your contributions to the state and region—very cool way to go out.”
So, am I retired? Well, yes and no. Let me explain:
Yes, I am officially retired as evidenced by:
- The title “emeritus” follows my listing in the college catalogue in the roster of “retired faculty.”
- I have been honored on my retirement by resolutions and awards from the faculty, the administration, the mayor, and the governor.
- No longer do I get a monthly college paycheck and college benefits.
- No more faculty or administrative meetings fill up my calendar.
- I am drawing down on my TIAA retirement, as well as Social Security, to maintain our family’s lifestyle.
- After lunch, I take a long nap before Judge Judy comes on.
So, am I retired? Definitely, yes.
No, I am really not retired as evidenced by:
- I still go to work every day and have the same office, files, and computer I have had for years.
- My course load of four courses for the year would, in most colleges, constitute a half-time position.
- My schedule includes, just for the fall term, seven talks, guest lectures, civic club presentations, conference papers, and speeches.
- I will continue to serve as executive editor of one professional journal and consulting editor of another.
- A journal will be publishing an article I am writing titled “My Last Commencement Speech,” and I have yet another article in mind.
- I will continue with my teaching and mentoring duties at the college and for my church.
So, Am I retired? Definitely, no.
As I have told those who ask what I am doing with my “free time” in retirement: “I don’t hunt or fish, can’t sing or paint, do not like to travel, and gave up golf.” I would, as the saying goes, prefer to wear out rather than to rust out—so I choose to keep active with the very things I enjoyed doing when I was “employed.” And as the maxim declares: “Old deans never die; they just lose their faculties.” I want to keep my faculties alive and well.
As I reflect on the question—retire or not to retire—I have concluded that this is a classic case of “different strokes for different folks.” For college professors, who are not wearing themselves out roofing houses or using jackhammers—this is a more perplexing question than it might be for others. Mandatory retirement was outlawed by the 1994 Age Discrimination Act, although colleges, since 1998, can offer various incentives, such as “phased retirement,” an option I chose three years ago (our limit is three years at half-time).
How do others react to the retirement decision? I may be over-simplifying a complex decision, but many of my friends and neighbors fall into four categories:
- Those who hate their work – 10 minutes to adjust
- Those who tolerate their work – 10 days to adjust
- Those who like their work – 10 weeks to adjust
- Those who are their work – never (This might be me!)
Deal with it, my friends, and more power to you if you make or have made different choices in your retirement.
Dr. Thomas McDaniel is senior vice president (retired) and professor of education emeritus at Converse College, Spartanburg, S.C.