Retired, yet, ‘not Really Tired’

I’m ‘Sheik’! for a day.

          This article may be the most read among all that is printed in this convention souvenir. Not the least because of any claim or fame in my prowess as a writer, but for the reason that the actuarial reality of a significant percentage of members of this organization is getting to an age and a stage of contemplating to quit. Based on that rationale and out of curiosity, many of the attendees may be tempted to glance through it and perhaps be influenced in making their decision, one way or another.
         In any case, I belong to that privileged class of physicians who are retired and have a legitimate status and thus can take the podium to express. And since Radha, our President suggested that I contribute a piece to the souvenir, I decided to plunge in.
         After thirty-five years of active, comfortable practice and after considerable deliberation, I felt that it is time for me to walk away from my second life trusting that I am doing the right thing. As many of my patients expressed their anguish at my decision, as my colleagues tried to convince me of at least slashing my hours instead of completely stopping it and as my wife and children were apprehensive of my existence without a job, I persisted in pursuing my desire and my determination.
        As the New Year dawned, I walked away as a free man leaving behind my own personal legacy, totally cognizant that the practice and my patients can survive without me, yet with a twinge of grief echoing inside the intimate crevices of my mind. The hesitation was from ‘abandoning a divine’ profession, the efforts that gave us the privilege of being selected to medical school, the struggles of relocating to this foreign land, the rewards of training, establishing and succeeding in the practice; all of it when I could have indefinitely continued.
       After four months of my momentous decision, I can honestly claim that I remain comfortable with my resolution; not feeling guilty, lost or frustrated with the empty time dumped on me. I am far from establishing a contented routine of devoting meaningful application of the time available to me, but I feel confident that I am heading in the right direction. Perhaps the essence of a happy retired life is in identifying, isolating, and applying all the desirable elements that you have been denied because of your busy life and your unavoidable obligations. All of us at some point during our professional life must have felt, even compelled to attempt certain projects, only to ignore them for want of time. Once we are able to chart out and designate an allocation of the time we have at our disposal and try to indulge in what we have missed, at least our curiosity is rewarded. It does not really matter whether we dedicate every minute to pursue inspirational or intellectual endeavors or to leisurely savor our chosen list of pleasures, as long as we satisfy our conscience of having earned the privilege, without a hint of guilt or boredom.
       Retirement is not a resignation from life but is only a transformation in shifting the priorities. How one retiree establishes a preference list of things to do is absolutely personal, based on their circumstances; health status, needs of the family, idiosyncrasies and individualistic intuitions. Even after one establishes such a list, there is no obligation involved, unless such commitments overlap the needs of others. The objective should always be to focus on purpose; a purpose which makes our time meaningful, something which requires aspiration and expectation.
       Most of us who are grandparents are blessed to spend time with the little ones, but proximity and practicality may often pose a problem. The experience is the most precious reward of getting old and what we earn from raising our own children. The status also comes with a certain responsibility of passing on established traditional values to the grandchildren, the most privileged function of grandparents.
       Retired life is when we can sleep as long as we want to and as often as we wish; we may eat as and when we please as dictated by the status of our body chemistry; we may want to watch television or listen to all the music we want to; we may spend time catching up with the news or reading the books we always sought to. We could take up exercise, yoga or meditation; we could travel to the corners of the world that we have missed; we could get enrolled in classes learning painting, pottery or palmistry; we could attempt to learn classical music, cooking, astronomy, philosophy or astrology. We could try writing a book expressing our imagination or revealing our frustration to the world. At this age, we should have no trepidation to start our own autobiography and reveal everything we wanted to share with the public; about our precious childhood memories, about our unpleasant experience with the neighborhood bully, about the indebtedness to our father whose sacrifice made us what we are today, about the frustration of not being selected to the hockey team, about the women in our life from our mother to our wife and the one in our dreams who remained elusive forever.
      Whatever we decide to do, it should give us satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and peace of mind. It will be so desirable if we can structure it in such a way that we make an effort to give something back to society. There is much need and many needy out there who can benefit from our kindness, from our courtesy. Whether we decide to volunteer for a community cause or a philanthropic endeavor, whether it is our time or effort to protect the environment or a principle, whether we engage in activities to improve literacy or oppose corruption, it does not matter. But the intent, the purpose, the desire, the commitment ,and the objective that count.
      We are blessed to have been the select few who have enjoyed an elite, privileged, life and it should be our honor to give something back to the less advantaged and the deserving. It may be individuals, a community, a cause or a principle; but nevertheless, something very much worthy of our consideration, our compassion and our commitment.
Have a happy retirement, whenever you choose.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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