Learning from the unstoppable force of time Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, May. 22, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

When we think of our careers and future endeavors, there's one moment that's often overlooked: retirement.

When I graduated from college, my focus was on finding and starting a job. Once hired, I spent no time during my first day of work imagining the last day of my career, 40 or 50 years into the future.

Even today, retirement is still decades away. It's no more real to me than reports that say we'll soon be able to buy airline tickets to fly into space.

Recently though, life forced me to consider the concept of retirement. A co-worker chose to retire after 27 years of doing the same job. I found I couldn't easily put her decision into perspective. Looking back, I realize why.

There was little connection between her first day on the job and her last. When she started, most businesses, including ours, completed their work on typewriters, not computers. They relied on phone calls and fax machines. Email was unheard of. It made me feel young and made her feel old. I wasn't a teenager when she had completed her first day of work.

With the evolution of any job over time, what lessons are learned or lost? When you realize yesterday's mountains almost always become today's molehills, does a view of the bigger picture create a broader vision?

Should we ask those same questions about our lives outside of our employment?

As soon as I earned my first paycheck, life became divided into "work time" and "free time." When I was in high school and working in a food court at the mall, dividing the two was simple. If I was earning money, I was working. If I was spending money, the time was free in everything except cost.

Today, the division of time is nowhere near as simple. The hours previously called free include "family time," the extremely scarce "sleeping time," and the ever-unpopular "paying-the-bills" time.

If you're not careful, free time is spent before you have time for yourself. If it were an option, many people would opt to buy more. Instead, since we can't buy what's free, we're left with the task of better identifying its use.

That brings us back to the questions I asked earlier. What if we looked at our free time like a long-lasting career?

It's hard finding time to spend with friends and family plus do the things we want if we're trying to do it all in one day. But with a long-term view of what we want to do, we can get a lot accomplished.

With a long-term approach, that video game sitting on your shelf is playable. That book on your end table is readable. And, that date you want to make with someone who could potentially play a big role in your future is possible.

When we think of retirement, we think of an end. In reality, it's a beginning. It's a chance to take what we learned while working and apply it to life outside of work.

If we apply those lessons now, we can improve our lives while still on the job. We can maximize our personal, free time. We can learn the lesson many don't fully understand until they're retired.

The best time is time well spent.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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