Retirement and Irrelevance

Teenagers think they know everything, yet they know almost nothing about life. They are barely educated and lack even the smallest morsels of life’s experience. They think their parents are old and out of touch. They truly believe they can do everything in life better. This isn’t a shocking revelation, but just the normal growth progression of life.

In a short 4 years or so, they will garner the coveted Bachelor’s degree and in a few more years, they may even have more framed wallpaper for their office. This is a dangerous time for them. They have been convinced, through teachings and titles, that they actually know stuff. And to some degree that’s true. They know stuff that other people know, but they haven’t discovered anything on their own, they lack the practical experience of life.

It’s only after a few years in the workplace that they discover how much they didn’t know and how that must have appeared to everyone around them. They grin sheepishly at the thought, a little embarrassed perhaps, and then slowly they become us.

Around this time in my life, I began to notice a mild melancholy around my father. He never said anything about it, but it was there. Perhaps if he had talked to me about it I would have been more prepared for what was to come. That melancholy was the gradual realization of his irrelevance in the world.

I was working hard, supporting a family, and not interested in anything he might have to say about the business world I then occupied. In his day, he was a genius in the business world. In his day. Those words are the essence of our life’s experiences. My work was largely with the Department of Defense and I used that excuse to ignore all business discussions with him. There were countless business subjects that I could have learned from him, but I was too proud, to independent, or too stupid to ask. I was 26 when he retired at 62.

Now I am retired. With every year out of active experience, my knowledge becomes dated and stale. Expressions like ‘we don’t do it like that anymore’ or ‘there is new technology for that’ permeate every conversation. Yet, I do try to keep up, if only for my own education. However, I am always treated with a smile and a shake of the head when the young ones, who seem to know so much, can’t drive to Grandma’s house without activating the ‘popup-navi’ or a fully charged cell phone or tablet.

So what does ‘retired’ mean? I was tired before and now I’m tired again? Superficially, it means you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it. But it all starts with one very big decision; you give up your place in the workforce. You give up access to the cutting edge in your chosen field. You do this voluntarily in most cases. So, what are you complaining about? Not complaining exactly, just realizing the profound sadness of it all. The same melancholy that my father felt. The concept that much of the knowledge gained through life’s experience, his and now mine, will be wasted and buried.

It is the way of things. It is up to the young to learn and experience life for themselves. They will take ownership of many of the same mistakes and successes that we did and will probably progress further, faster, and higher. Now we can only watch and hope that we did enough for them to help them succeed in life.

About J T Weaver

The author of "Uphill Both Ways," a thought provoking series of stories about life, family, and growing up.
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73 Responses to Retirement and Irrelevance

  1. Reblogged this on ' Ace Friends News ' and commented:

    Thanks for visit and follow this post is perfect for sharing on friends news … This is so true of teenagers and their view of life today .. They think the world owes them a living and not in so many cases use hard work to achieve success through wisdom of understanding … Ian ⭐️

    Like

  2. Enviroart says:

    Great post although I do not believe in the irrelevance of anybody. It is sad that the previous generation believed their only net worth was in “recognized work”. My husband retired 5 years ago and never felt irrelevant, He’s full of life, involved in different communities and generally has a ball ! A great example for our kids that don’t see retirement as the end of work but the beginning of adventures. Thanks for following my blog. Best to you !

    Like

  3. mommermom says:

    You said it so well!

    Like

  4. Kennedy says:

    Well JT, I think I’ve avoided irrelevance by setting new goals and blogging. Obviously, you have too. Now, I think I’ll aspire to having the type of following you enjoy–there’s nothing irrelevant about that. In that you are imminently relevant! Bravo!

    Like

  5. jollof says:

    Hello Mr. Weaver! I noticed the link to this article in a WP email and I’m glad I clicked to read more. This is a big reminder for me (and a colleague in the office I called over to read along with). We’re both busy middle-aged bankers dreading the R word lol. Now following for more of your insights and great anecdotes.
    Thanks for following too.

    Like

  6. When I retired in 2005 after working for 45 years, I decided to do what I had really wanted to do for most of my life, but now for the rest of my life, however long that is going to be—something that doesn’t earn enough money to pay the bills for most of the people in that profession. To do that I went back to school to learn how to program websites, use Adobe elements, and Blog. I’m still learning.

    So far, I’m past the 10 year mark and enjoying my new life where the retirement I earned during those 45 years that supports the life I live now following that dream has added another stream of income to what I retired with, but I still don’t earn enough from living the dream to pay the bills.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great posting J. T. Weaver.

    I look upon the second chapter of my life, similar to when I graduated high school, went to college, join the military and live in another country. The only difference between that time long ago, and now. I have wisdom, money and I am more patient, relaxed, yet I still become excited as I look towards my future. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed this post however, I am of the opinion that you are only as irrelevant as you allow people to think you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nena says:

    Beautifully expressed! I have to say I did have a laugh when I read your take on being re-tired LOL Never thought about it that way;)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. sarah1 says:

    Right on when you are talking about teenagers. I remember having the same feelings when I was one. Now, I am worried about my own kids’ teenage years. I hope I can keep up with all the parenting duties that come along with adolescence and beyond. Thank you so much for your work- I’m really enjoying reading through your blog! Also thanks for following me, I appreciate it so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mary Job says:

    This makes managing knowledge a more imperative field that needs serious investment. These knowledge must be captured and stored, believe you me, the future generation will learn from it, those that want to learn anyway. Another angle of knowledge management. Great post.

    Like

  12. Retirement means you have half as much money and you’re busier than ever, but this time it’s work you choose or it the help you offer to others. Drinking coffee in your pjs on principle alone, but then rushing out the door to the next activity. Yes, retirement may not be what you fantasized about, but you can do so much more. I believe we were put on earth for a higher purpose than just to take up space and breathe air. God has a plan for each of us and our job is find and fulfill that plan no matter how old you are. You would be surprised if you knew how many lives my 80 year Dad touches.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Marianne says:

    When I was really relevant, and did outstanding work in the workplace ( university) , jealous people always gave me a hard time, and tried to devalue what I did. Actually, they could not have done what I did, which is why I was hired, to do what I could do best.

    now that i am retired, i manage a website, that I think is more relevant , and has more value, than what i did before. it does not say in money but it pays in satisfaction.

    some relevant work passes away, as it only has temporary value, but other work never passes away, as it has eternal value, and that is what I work on now.

    the older we get, the more valuable and eternally relevant our efforts become.

    so we are going up, not down.

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  14. Janice Wald says:

    Hi,
    I wanted to come over and thank you so much for following my blog this weekend. If you have a Pinterest account, I’d love your Email to invite you to come pin with us. Here’s the link to the board if you’d like to see it:

    Your Email would of course be kept private.
    Thank you again and nice to meet you.
    Janice, Mostly Blogging

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Hi Janice. I’m afraid I don’t do Pinterest. Or Twitter. Or even texting. Upon occasion, if I recognize the number, I may answer the phone. But that doesn’t happen often.
      I have finished what I had intended with my writing. There is a good body of work here if you have an interest in this type of story. I welcome your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. natuurfreak says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog.I agree on what you write. It’s relevant for today and also for longtime ago.

    Like

  16. Your words really resonate, JT. I haven’t yet retired but I’m coming up on 60, and though I have no desire to retire, most places where I apply for jobs don’t even bother to look at my skills and qualifications, deciding instead, based on my age, that I have nothing to contribute. I hate having people see me as irrelevant just because of a number! Thanks for sharing. 😊

    Like

  17. stephen says:

    i was “retired” about 10 years ago due to disability. most definitely not my choice. i have been struggling with irrelevance ever since. perhaps not really your point, but the title of the story grabbed my attention. i will pay attention and read more.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Reblogged this on Commonwealth of Light and commented:

    Here’s one man’s take on retirement…it is good to reflect on our relevance in the world. I’m 58 and still learning, still trying things. I hope to never hit the melancholy stage, but who knows.

    Like

  19. dayya says:

    Love this! You made me laugh out loud, and I so identify! By the way, thank you for following my blog. d:)

    Like

  20. wayneman says:

    I am a retired English/Spanish teacher and have moonlighted as an adjunct college instructor for years. Two years ago I get a call from one of my favorite ex-students from the high school days. She’s a counselor at the same school. “Hey, Mr. Hancock. Would you consider coming back to teach Spanish. We are two weeks into the semester, and we can’t find a teacher.”
    “Well, if it was anyone else but you, Kristy, I would say no.”
    “Then you will?”
    “Yes.” And thus began my second foray into the numbing void of inexperience you wrote about. 15-17-year-olds exude such an obnoxious stench of self-importance based entirely on their over-inflated opinionated egos. I love them and, of course, try to direct them into the knowledge that the world does not revolve around them and their phones–that their world is really made up of experiences.
    It is only when I tell an ER Vietnam story or when we sat down at a little round table, no less–on the floor of Winterland in San Francisco–experiencing this new act called the Jimi Hendrix Experience in October 1968 right after I got back home, and how it only cost $3. 50 (That’s a 20 dollar bill today–boy are you guys getting screwed!) or how after my “joyous cosmology” days in the Bay Area, we did a much needed volte-face and joined a Christian community, traveled to Mexico and learned what the true treasure of the Sierra Madre was, or when I tell of the man there on the side of an obscure mountain who desperately wanted to trade a bird in a cardboard cracker box prison for food and how he cried, “Pan, pan” with those tearless sunken eyes and how we opened the back of our van and gave them the large sacks of corn and beans that in the end were meant for them.
    It is only then that my students’ prematurely hardened hearts melt a bit until the bell rings, and they like robots go to their phones to see if anyone is thinking about them.
    J T, I think you are right about the writing of these experiences. The written word is very powerful, “mightier than the sword.” And in the word’s humble clothing a lifetime lives on and on. Keep writing. And thanks for following my blog. The full Mexico stories are here: https://immortalityroad.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/true-treasures-of-the-sierra-madre/ https://immortalityroad.wordpress.com/2008/05/01/famine-integrity-and-the-cardboard-cage/
    Kenneth Wayne Hancock

    Like

  21. TheJackB says:

    My son just turned 14 and I just sat him down to try and explain to him how much he hasn’t figured out yet. In the process I had a flashback of a similar conversation with my father some 30 plus years ago.

    Apparently the men in my family are all thick headed. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • J T Weaver says:

      Perhaps it is just the teenagers who are thick headed. Don’t punish yourself too much. We all go through it. I’m glad you stopped by and I hope you will continue to find things here that you enjoy.

      Like

  22. The circle of life JT. Well said. My hubby is finding retirement soooo hard and yet I could fill every moment. The difference, I believe, is a bit of forethought. I just changed my occupation to home-based activities related to writing but I can see this has evolved over the past years, juggling both for while. For hubby ‘work’ as he knew it just stopped. I can support him but I cannot decide for him what to do or spend every moment with him. We need to grow, adapt and learn – equally as tough as in our 20’s in some ways 🙂

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      So true, Diana, so true. I was thinking that it probably was related to your pre-retirement occupation. Some are easier to transition from, some impossible perhaps. I’m glad you liked the post and it’s good to see you again.

      Like

  23. Dani says:

    J T, I was talking about this same thing yesterday with my husband:

    “That melancholy was the gradual realization of his irrelevance in the world.”

    My father (now 73), a once talkative and enthusiastic man, has become a shadow of his former self. He no longer speaks, even when spoken to, and has very little to add to any environment. This deeply saddens me and I wonder…does this really have to do with age or is it something much more profound than that??

    Liked by 1 person

  24. This is such a fine piece that really touches on something that so many people go through and yet no one really talks about. It’s a difficult place for alot of people…I know retirement really hit my own father hard and he isn’t the sort that discusses that sort of thing looking for support or whatever. I’m really glad you took the time to post about this….

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I so enjoyed this post JT! I am in my 40’s, but have been thinking a lot about this time coming in my life….my son is almost 12, and he has “known more” than me for a couple years now. I SO remember being that way with my own parents-I only hope my son can take a few things from me to help him as he experiences the things that my husband and I have…thanks again!

    Like

  26. kazblah says:

    Beautifully written, JT. Life is an incredible journey, isn’t it?

    Like

  27. ksbeth says:

    this is a wonderful post and i think you’re just moving into a new phase, with more to come. your readers can see it in your writing –

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Thanks Beth, but really? I hadn’t thought of it. I have had some things on my mind for quite a while now and gradually they are coming to the surface. The thoughts were there, but I couldn’t find the words. Maybe you’re right.

      Like

  28. bkpyett says:

    The adage, you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, comes to mind! In retirement I’m finding writing a new challenge, it is so exciting to find that it’s an unending challenge! 🙂

    Like

  29. A great post, and one that resonates so well with me! I did become irrelevant after I retired from the university; I missed my students, who made me relevant and filled my days. So I carved another career for myself, one that lends itself to ‘retirement’ – writing. Wonderfully both of our kids do not think of us as irrelevant and turn to us for help and advice. Yes, both of them are older than 25!!!
    It says a lot of our society that elders are not valued, in contrast to a country like Japan.

    Like

  30. davidprosser says:

    I hate to be thought of as an irrelevance and find myself clinging like a limpet to any question asked by the young. I have to watch the answers I give aren’t too long winded so as to lose their attention and future need of me. I fear I might have the sympathy vote though, ‘Go on, you ask him something, I asked last time.’

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      haha, yes David I am careful when asked “What time is it?” that I don’t describe for them how to build a watch. Especially since now none of them wear watches because their smart phones/tablets/laptops all keep the time for them.

      Like

  31. galeweithers says:

    As the mother of a 17 year old son you had me at the first paragraph even though I am a few years off retirement. Reblogged on Living Day by Day because I am sure they are many others who can relate. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone!

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      That was very nice of you, thanks. An oh you’re not alone. Every teenager for 10 millennia and beyond did the same thing. Each one of them thought they were unique and absolutely right about everything. I’m glad you liked the post and I hope you will come back often.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. galeweithers says:

    Reblogged this on Living Life Day by Day and commented:
    I am still a few years away from retirement but I can so relate to the comment that teenagers think they know everything! At 17 my son has already seen it all and done it all … because my way and my experiences are as extinct as pre-historic dinosaurs. He is basically a good boy who unfortunately has to ‘touch the stove to make sure it’s hot’ or even hotter – just as I told him.
    All we can do as parents is try as much as possible to train our children in the way they should go – and then let them go. Thanks to J T Weaver for these great words of wisdom.

    Like

  33. marianbeaman says:

    Very relevant theme today, J. T. One thing I’ve learned from my first retirement in a vocation I simply loved is that I had to let go of self-importance but retain self-esteem. Wisdom and discernment must continue to the end of our days, which can include another vocations, other callings.

    Like

    • J T Weaver says:

      Yes Marian, letting go of self-importance especially for those employed as senior managers, can be the toughest. Realizing that you did something important in your career is much easier. [hopefully]. Thanks for reading today, I’m glad you liked it.

      Like

  34. A very insightful post, JT. You can write about your experience and perceptions, and pass that insight on. Retired or not from the Defense Industry, you never need to retire as a writer and as long as you share your insight, your writing can hold a great deal of meaning to others.

    Like

  35. luggagelady says:

    What a magnificent piece!!! I’m going to share with my 73-year-old father asap. Thank you for sharing your brilliant mind with the world!!!!!!

    Like

  36. Reblogged this on andreannadais and commented:
    Such a worthwhile read and completely RELEVANT read. Love this.

    Like

  37. Excellent blog post!!!

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  38. I think this is so true as long as we are oriented toward our business/profession. Maybe with retirement we should be ready to be like teen agers again — blithely going on to something else where we will once again become unexpectedly proficient.

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