Life Manual, Chapter 65: 65 years and 145 days

Here’s the news: I filed for Social Security a couple of weeks ago; my benefits begin in April. And I’m also drawing income from the old 401(k). So I guess I am as officially retired as I am ever going to be. I’m still not particularly comfortable with that word–retirement–but there’s no other term, in our society, for the status I have now taken on (or should I say descended into.) Again, having not been able to read a manual on this aging process, I wasn’t prepared for how this feels. My mind keeps shouting: I’m not done. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, there’s still time to accomplish all sorts of things before the clock runs out. Maybe.

Part of the discomfort is occasioned, I think, by a mindset I’ve carried since I was truly conscious that I had a mind. Very simply put, I always believed I would distinguish myself by doing something important, noteworthy, beneficial to society, something for which I would be remembered, at least by a few folks. I wonder if other people haven’t lived their lives with the same expectation? Seems I read that confession somewhere along the way.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to simply say: Yes, I’m retired, I’ve left the ranks of the productive. As I review the work I’ve done (journalism and journalism instructor, mostly), I don’t see anything particularly important or beneficial. I did some stories I thought helped the communities I served as a journalist, and I’ve had the privilege of working with some aspiring journalists who have or will make a significant contribution to informing the public about the world we live in. And I feel good about that. It’s nothing to brag about, but I’m grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.

If I hadn’t carried that fantasy of doing something special or significant, maybe I wouldn’t have been as motivated as I’ve been to do whatever I do as well as it can be done. And maybe I never really internalized all the rhetoric I put out there about focusing on what’s really important in life (family, friends, the life of the mind, the well-being of others) rather than getting caught up in materialistic, egocentric pursuits. Maybe I thought I could do both at the same time. I don’t know, I didn’t have a manual. What I do know, now, is that being retired means I can focus much more intently on the things that really matter and forget that stuff about being “famous.” I think I’m finally learning, at 65 years and 144 days, just to BE.



  1. Ed · March 13, 2015

    Perhaps you just don’t recognize the significance of what you have done. And sometimes our significant acts aren’t recognized until years later. After all, how many people get to be news anchors?


    • Mark Kelley · March 13, 2015

      You are too kind. I appreciate the thoughts. And could you give me a call in case I miss the moment of recognition? :–) Thanks for reading and responding.


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