Into the Great Wide Open – Navigating Retirement Without a Compass

Nov 10, 2021

Countless Newman alumni are making a positive difference and transforming society on each continent of the globe.

In this contributing article, Newman alumnus James R. Macias ’81, shares the challenges and hopes for navigating the world of retirement.

(With apologies to the late and great Tom Petty)

“So what is your plan for retirement?”

There it was again, for the (seemingly) millionth time, phrased is various ways, that well-intended but equally annoying question from friends and colleagues in the run up to the last day of my working life. I don’t recall the person whose “millionth” inquiry absorbed the full measure of my frustration on September 30, 2020, though my wife Deb was in the room and could surely identify the victim and detail the voracity of my rejoinder.

Deb and Jim Macias with great-nephews Sam and Jack at Devil’s Backbone Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado.
Deb and Jim Macias with great-nephews Sam and Jack at Devil’s Backbone Open Space, Larimer County, Colorado.

I hadn’t bothered to devise a formal plan much less proffer a vaguely articulated strategy. Furthermore, I found the idea of planning my retirement, barring of course fiduciary considerations, a quite bizarre concept.

My whole life had been “planned” and scheduled up to that point, and heading into the life’s closing chapters I held visions of complete and total freedom. I may ultimately fall into a post-retirement routine resembling structure, form and order, or it might be a random walk. Either is reasonable but I preferred to enter this alien condition without an agenda extant or detailed list of hobbies and activities.

Several years in the books

The first 18 years of my life were controlled in varying measure by my parents and the state of Kansas, owing to the generally beneficial objectives of childhood development and mandated public education or its parochial equivalent.

The subsequent nine were dedicated to academic pursuits, and though appearing more strategic in hindsight than it felt in the 70s and 80s as the events were unfolding, this was yet a formal architecture designed to position myself for future sustainable employment.

The balance of pre-retirement years, an epoch-like 34 of them, were spent working for a single company, with concomitant benefits and trade-offs associated with being a “lifer” for one enterprise.

That’s 61 years in total, mostly good ones, but filled also with a profusion of assessments, certifications, reviews and other such “judgements” on one’s value and performance.

There was no shortage of staff meetings, industry conferences and mandatory training modules covering a myriad of topics, one or two of which might have been relevant and useful. And to ensure the level of angst never fell below a perceptible level were the recurring and exacting business deadlines. In September 2020 I most certainly was not seeking to extend the planning.

A vision of retirement

Despite the mildly acrid preamble I have no intention of sitting around the house all day watching television. My vision of retirement, however ambiguous, was simply to live in a beautiful part of the country with weather conducive to spending considerable time outdoors. I believed this would be beneficial to my physical and mental health, and it is thus far working quite nicely though there is additional progress to be made. I had no doubt that other pursuits would follow whether actively initiated by me or via happenstance.

Jim Macias
Jim Macias at Rocky Mountain National Park

Having now the benefit of several months getting to know my adopted hometown of Loveland, Colorado, opportunities to fill the vacant hours are becoming more apparent. This includes volunteer work, with the initial foray into this space coming by way of the local community kitchen, an organization that provides ready to eat meals for those in need. Over time I would expect additional prospects for volunteer service to materialize.

Deb and I certainly have aspirations for travel and tourism, with emphasis on domestic excursions in the short term, but we hope to wander about internationally as early as 2022 depending upon how the pandemic plays out in various parts of the world.

Continue to Part II: A little wine, reading and writing

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