For one reason or another, I have met a few retired people who tell me that they don't really like being retired. They miss work, in a way they never thought they would. When they retired, they had a party, went on vacation for two weeks, and after that, realized they had a whole lot more time on their hands than usual. It took effort to figure out how best to spend this time. This used to baffle me. How could enjoying free time take work?
I think they miss feeling valued, and they miss their friends at work. I've been thinking about retired people, because it seems that right now I'm on their schedule. I go to the grocery store during the day and it's just me and the retired population of Milwaukie, strolling the aisles. Same as when I walk the dogs; it's me, the stay-at-home-moms with their strollers, and the older population on the Trolley Trail, most with small dogs. And I don't have a stoller, yet, and I don't have a small dog. I have three large ones and sometimes, people cross the street when they see Moo and Leah. No one's scared of Potato and her curly tail. I've been on this schedule before, when I was working nights. But that was in Bend, where it's not so odd to be young, able-bodied and have nowhere to go. Compared to Bend, there is plenty of work here, but I was unable to work for two months (see previous blog if you want that story), and now, I'm finally booking some teaching gigs again for later this spring. Being at home so much reminds me that I draw a lot of my identity from my work, as do most people. We are taught from a young age to view ourselves in terms of profession; hence the question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" It seems like such a broad question but in fact, the word "be" only refers to "be for a living," and by living, we mean working.
What else do we dream of being besides at work? What did we picture ourselves doing? I am often inspired by my friends. One I am thinking of has a beautiful orchard, another has decided that she is going to become a horse, and another texts me from Ohio that she cannot stop sewing. Her quilts are remarkably precise and beautiful, even though she just learned how. She loves math, and I think this must all be part of whatever she loves about patterns.
I've been baking a lot. The person who taught me how was an amazing chef, but also an amazing teacher. The way he taught has always stuck with me, as much as the content did. He would only give me one step at a time, and it was all by feel. I took a few notes on amounts, but everything else was visceral. Whenever you would get ahead of yourself, he would just repeat the first instruction until you had completed it. Sometimes, when he was cooking on the line and I was waitressing, he would make the staff a little snack, something like pork belly, the kind that melts in your mouth with no gristle, just a slip of heaven that gave way to a crispy skin. He'd say, this isn't for customers. This is pure love. That's the kind of pleasure we all chase, whatever our jam is. But I think, for almost everything save some solitary activities, most things are better with others. Sometimes, I get burned-out by how much the word community is used these days, so instead I'll just say most things are better with friends.