Recently there was a spot on network news about how a lot of baby boomers wanted to spend their retirement years rediscovering themselves but most wouldn’t be able to do that because they didn’t save enough for retirement to ever stop working. I count myself among the fortunate. We’re not wealthy but we have enough to spend our retirement rediscovering ourselves.
When I think about rediscovering myself, I think about the girl who got married in a hayfield in upstate New York. No, you’re not going blind. I wrote hayfield, a hayfield complete with Episcopalian priest wearing overall jeans and plain white t-shirt beneath his robes. We had a guitar player/singer who belted out some really smarmy tunes (I liked them a lot at the time) such as “Time in a Bottle”. Everyone stood around in sensible shoes witnessing our vowels while I was so struck with emotion I cried through my own wedding. The emotion was triggered by my priest arriving 20 minutes late…talk about being stood up at the alter! My husband was this handsome long haired guy with a mustache and beads around his neck that matched the ones around my neck. I wore a long cream colored dress with a picture hat. My bridesmaids wore home sewn dresses in a variety of pastel colors. The guys wore tuxes with frilly shirts. Where did those people go? I’ll tell you where they went. They got bills…mortgage, electric, gas, water, garbage, car payments, student loans and kids. So they traded in the beads for jobs that made enough money to support all that and more. They became a consumer unit! And consume they did. The idea of living in our little house on 10 acres gave way to chasing jobs and promotions cross country moving into ever larger accommodations while seeking good schools, good shopping and the latest stuff.
Am I ready to give up living on the grid? Am I ready to stop being what some government agencies call a consumer unit? Not entirely. We did pare down the consumerism in order to retire early and have a less cluttered life. However, and it’s a big however, I like being able to walk in the door, flip a switch and get electricity for lights, gas for cooking and water running from the tap. But I also want healthier food and a mindful, sustainable lifestyle. I prefer jeans to my work attire. T- shirts to blouses. Our old matching beads to any gold necklace. I like my smaller house…less to clean, heat, cool and pay property taxes on. Ditto for my seven year old Mazda. So, while I search for the girl from the hayfield, I guess I still want to live on the grid and be a consumer unit without consuming quite so much.