Sunday, July 09, 2006

If I were planning to retire, I'd have a little less than a decade to finish setting things up -- assuming I called it quits at 65.

Now, to begin with, writers don't retire -- heck, Art Buchwald refuses to even die, much less quit writing. "Retirement" to me would mean cutting back to the point where I don't have to go into the office to do my job anymore. Or, like Andy Rooney, to have a setup where you have an office to go fiddle around in, as long as you produce three minutes of genial ruminations about potato chips or road signs each week for CBS and a couple of similarly off-the-cuff columns for the syndicate.

The other factor is that I retired at the beginning of my career. I spent 15 years trying to be a novelist. I'm glad I did, because it cleared the decks -- imagine spending all these years toiling along at work I was rather good at, but in a state of discontent because of the notion that, if I only had the time, I could write great novels instead. Having produced two novel-length manuscripts and several rewrites of each, I have disproven that idea.

Now I just work along thinking that, if I'd started earlier, I might not be so far behind my age cohort in terms of storing up mammon against old age.

Fortunately, a couple of years ago I read Peter Coyote's memoir of the Sixties, Sleeping Where I Fall, and it reminded me of what we really believed back then and the fact that, while some of the specifics were naive, the core beliefs were not. I'm content with where I have landed and how I got here, and, while I think the sorts of work we reward with large amounts of money are not always those that do society the most good, I'm only bitter about it when my 12-year-old car breaks down.

That said, Sandra Bell-Lundy's cartoon cracked me up yesterday. Scary thing is, this is a CANADIAN talking. I guess it's one of those times when an American reader has to wonder, did she already convert those projections to American measures? 'Cause I've got a pretty good sense of how the exchange rate between our two countries works out in terms of Social Services, and it's not in our favor!

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