Fear is a funny thing. I’ve seen grown men injure themselves to escape a common garden spider. Personally, I’m petrified when I have to climb higher than 3 feet on a ladder. They’ve never been bitten by a spider, I’ve never fallen off a ladder, so why the paralyzing fear? I think it’s fear of the unknown, that’s certainly the heart of my current fear, retirement.

When I started OpinionByPen.com, one of my goals was to open up about my emotions. Well, that and become instantly popular with everyone reading my blog. OpinionByPen.com has given me an opportunity to share my feelings, but I still avoid the hard issues. Enter retirement; at 74 years old, I’m finally acknowledging it’s time for me to retire.

My nightmare

Why so late? I like to think I’m good at my job, and I enjoy the challenge. The bottom line, I absolutely fear retirement. Money is certainly one of the reasons. My job provided security as well as a buffer against those surprises, like the well pump failing. I think I’m good, but after a period of double-digit inflation, who knows? See, I’m still avoiding the real issue.

What is the issue? When I retire, I fear the loss of my identity. As a baby boomer, my self-definition is the breadwinner. I’ve been fortunate to have been continuously employed since I received my degree. When I retire, I’m no longer a breadwinner. It’s not the money; it’s simply how I define my role in the family.

Speaking of defining myself, over my career, I’ve always been the engineer people turn to for answers. I’ll still have my knowledge, but it’s sort of like having detailed knowledge of buggy whips as the world moves on to automobiles. Once I retire, who am I?

Definitely impressed

I love being challenged to learn and use new technology. The key here is it has to be something I can use. Learning statistics was fun and applied directly to my job. It may be an exaggeration, but I get the feeling my wife’s chickens have no respect for my knowledge of statistics. Maybe I can repeat Mendel’s experiments with my wife’s tomatoes. That would certainly impress those chickens.

Fishing, golf, gardening, none of those have any appeal for me. My love is technology. I enjoy the company of young engineers because I learn a lot from them and, in return, enjoy helping their development. That will be gone. I’ll still have OpinionByPen.com, but at best, it’s a poor substitute for face-to-face interactions.

I have considered volunteering; there seems to be a number of opportunities there. Of course, being me, the first thought I had was what venues would offer me an opportunity to learn new skills. Still thinking like an engineer.

My wife feels my retirement will be great. No more stress, no more coming home so mad I could chew nails, and given that my commute is about two hours a day, far less exposure to distracted Texas drivers. Admittedly, that last might also be a benefit to the other drivers.

Don’t tell me this is only 3 feet

I see retirement as no more technical challenges, no more identity as a breadwinner, no more having the opportunity to learn from younger engineers.

The most probable reality is that my retirement will not be as bad as I fear and not as grand as my wife hopes. Regardless, I don’t leave the house dark just because my acrophobia almost paralyzes me when I have to climb a ladder, I’m just a lot slower at it than you are. I will retire, I simply have to face my fear, one rung at a time.

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