Retirement is often related to one’s definition of the word

“Some people spend their “Golden Years” at the country club sipping fine wine quietly waiting for the day they get to meet their maker. But there’s always a couple of jokers who take a little more aggressive approach.”

—One thought on retirement adapted from the caption on the photo below of two gray-haired guys in a high-performance racing boat flying across the water.

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While leisurely activities waiting to meet my maker has never been my plan for the so-called “Golden Years,” neither is flying across the water in a high-performance racing boat. Add to that, gardening, reading the latest retirement magazine, or traveling cross country in an RV. My happiness has always been rooted in getting up to a challenge every morning, finishing the day with the satisfaction that comes in a task completed, and doing all of the above in he company of people having fun for as long my health permits.

Two jokers photo. Source unknown.

With retirement age in sight, I am happy to report those goals are still alive and well.

My “professional career” began mowing yards for neighbors on the south side of Mount Pleasant at age 11. My first real paycheck was at 13 working a summer job for Mr. Corbin Merritt at the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store in downtown Mount Pleasant for 25-cents an hour.

Before there were minimum age work requirements, there were three variety stores, as they were called, within a block of each other in Mount Pleasant: Ben Franklin, Duke & Ayres, and Perry Brothers. Dad was the manager at Perrys and good friends with both Mr. Merritt and Mr. Pauling at Duke & Ayres. I still remember the feeling of that first paycheck and the feeling of accomplishment at completing assigned tasks like assembling bicycles and wagons or cleaning the stock room.

Over the years, jobs have found me at times, and other times I’ve found them in the form of interesting challenges. Interesting is perhaps the best way to describe one of my more creative efforts at securing a job more than 40 years ago in the West Texas oasis of Abilene. Arriving there one night without gainful employment, job hunting was the first order of business the next morning. A couple years of newspaper experience on my crude resume and a ‘help wanted’ ad for a night city editor’s job led me downtown to the Abilene Reporter-News where I was ultimately offered the job. Not long out of college and not sure of what direction I wanted to go then, I also investigated a business manager’s opening at a tire store.

This is probably the time to note something I failed to mention during the interview that day, only because I was not asked: that I had no background or education in office management or bookkeeping. I thought credit was something Raney’s Grocery and gas station on South Jefferson in Mount Pleasant extended to customers and debit was … actually, I had no clue what debit meant. However, I decided not to let that deter me.

My “in” for the interview was a mutual friend of the company’s accountant confirming the old axiom that it’s not always what you know, but sometimes who you know that counts. After a rousing conversation about the friend we shared, I landed the job. Fortune had smiled on me: I had been in Abilene less than 24 hours and I had a job. Considering my lack of business knowledge, however, my next stop was the city library for some speed reading  in “basic bid-ness.” Lady Luck smiled one more time when I learned that McMurry University, one of Abilene’s three fine institutions of higher learning, was enrolling for an accounting night class the very next week.

I successfully met the challenges of that job and remained a few years before moving back to East Texas with new experience and additional education on my resume.

Many years later, as the Golden Years are knocking on my door, I’m thinking one’s vision of retirement has to do with their definition of the word. For me, it’s still the satisfaction of rising to meet a challenge, the fulfillment of completing the task, and having fun doing it.

After spending most of 2020 working on an idea for developing a new business, and like everyone else, dealing with the complications of COVID, I’m still on course. I’ve also been searching to see if there’s at least one more challenging employment opportunity that looks inviting: preferably, one that does not involve high-speed racing boats.

And the best part is that with experience and education gained over the years, bluffing my way into the right job is no longer required.

—Leon Aldridge

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Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, and the Alpine Avalanche.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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