Early retirement inspiration comes from many different places, and this one comes from an episode of the TV show The Wonder Years, that my good friend Anthony suggested at dinner a couple of weeks ago. Despite the series popularity, I didn’t really watch The Wonder Years when it was on the air. Like everything these days, the complete series is currently available on Netflix.
In this particular episode, titled “Coda” (S2E7-spoiler alert), Kevin feels that his piano lessons with Mrs Carples aren’t doing him any good – especially relative to his rival, Ronald Hirschmuller. As the going gets tough, Kevin decides to leave behind mastering the piano and instead focus on football and other interests. (see IMDB). In retrospect, the adult Kevin narrating the episode looks back on the lost opportunity wistfully.
The episode is about the disappointment we feel when we give up on something as a kid and how we later wish we had continued. It opens with a narrative that says, “When you are a little kid you are a little of everything. Scientist, philosopher, artist, athlete, and scholar.” The world is full of possibilities and you are told that when you grow up you can do it all. Inevitably, however, “Growing up is about giving up those things one by one.” We come to focus on the few things that interest us most, we get lazy and stop practicing, or we find an acceptable vocation that becomes our life’s career.
But there are always those treasured elements of your childhood self that you wish you had kept with you.
The opportunity in early retirement is to have the time to once again indulge in those things we left behind, or discover new activities that give us the same childish joy. Sometimes when people ask me what I’m going to do with my time, I say that “it is a great big, interesting world and I’m looking forward to taking it all in.”
Being released from the daily world of work – which isn’t so much burdensome as it is time-consuming – allows one to get back to the the scientist, philosopher, artist, athlete or scholar we probably still want to be. Fifty+ hours a week at work limits the possibility of being a widely multidimensional person. It’s an indulgence, but many people who retire early talk about the opportunities they are enjoying that wouldn’t fit into a normal work schedule. I’ll be on the search for these soon myself …
What are the childish activities that you are looking forward to enjoying? Here is a link to my post last week on “What will you do in early retirement?”
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