Most people don’t end up in situations like me. I was fired during the financial crisis, found no one wanted to hire me, rolled the dice on the stock market and ended up retired. That’s what we call “retrospectively lucky”. Still, even now, I find it hard admitting it’s time to retire.
In this case, “retiring” is a non-work related reference. For everyone still trying to pull down wages and increase that hard-won nest egg, retirement age is actually a dream, not a choice.
But, for purposes of this blog post, “time to retire” refers to my inability to let things go. Now, I’m not talking personal stuff. Okay, I’m not talking relationship stuff, like grudges and the like. But, I guess I am talking about personal stuff.
And, let me get this out up top – I’m not a pack rat. Not in the traditional sense. If I had a garage, it would hold my car. Not, as is the case with many of my fellow Floridians, the equivalent of an extra house.
So, though I’m not a pack rat, I am a creature of sorts: I’m a creature of my upbringing.
I’ve mentioned before about my beloved Grandparents, survivors of the Great Depression. And my many years living with my divorced Mom. Between both families, there was a constant refrain: take care of what you have and it will last.
Also, I am a collector. My parents supported and encouraged it for a while. Stamps, coins, books, baseball cards, comics. That last one finally caused even my Mom to sigh. Those comics, of which I still own almost 10,000 (sigh), tried the credulity of my family.
“Why don’t you sell them?” “What do you need to keep all of them for?” “Are you ever going to get rid of them?”
The answers, it turns out, are “because I value them” “they’re not junk, they’re my collection” and “it sure doesn’t look that way”
Now, what has all this to do with retirement? Simply this: I am obviously comfortable with hanging onto things. Combine that with my training in making things last and you have the following example:
I have a nice long-sleeve Gator shirt. It was given to me by my Mom. When I was in college. The first time. It’s pretty nifty, made of denim with an Oxford collar (button down). And after 30+ years, it’s pretty worn down.
No holes, mind you. Or tears or, amazingly, considering my family’s genetic klutziness, no stains either. But it’s definitely showing its age. You’ve heard of faded denim, right? This is faded, put out in the desert for 23 years. And then dragged across the dust pan for another dozen.
Remarkably, the Gator emblem is fresh and crisp as the day it was purchased. Go Gators indeed!
However, it’s clearly the type of shirt that should only be on a dying cowboy, dragging himself across the dirt dangling a dry-as-bone canteen behind him. With vultures watching from adjacent rocks. And an arid wind blowing dust in his face. Yeah, that guy.
In other words, the shirt is well past its retirement age. But, I can’t seem to let it go.
Maybe it’s sentimentality. After all it’s from Mom. And it’s a reminder of those days back in college. Although, I’d bet Mom would probably be the first person to tell me to “get rid of that tired old thing!”
Last month, I came the closest I’ve ever come to putting the shirt in the “to be donated” pile. I was holding it and my hand hovered over the spot. I twitched a little.
And then I pulled out a hanger and put it back in the closet, saved for another cold day in the future. I studied the shirt with a wry smile and shook my head.
Another day I fail in admitting it’s time to retire.