I have written a couple of columns on retirement in my tenure as “second least worst alternative” columnist for the Messenger. The cat who lets me live in her house has even discussed it in her column “A Cat of a Certain Age,” sarcastic little twit that she is. So, it obviously is on my mind from time to time.
When I consider “hanging it up,” as we used to say, I think of the days of the week. I wonder if the ups and downs of the typical five-day work week are something I will miss. Will one day be like another and if so is that a bad thing? I know I won’t miss the melancholy of Sunday evenings as the weekend winds down or the temporarily debilitating feelings of Monday mornings. As my college yearbook so poignantly phrased it, the weekends “chew us up and spit us out in tiny pieces on Monday mornings.” So one of the entries on the pro side of the “retire now” ledger is the likely end of the Sunday night doldrums and the Monday morning blues. A huge pro.
On the other side of the ledger is the euphoria of Friday nights and the serenity of Saturday mornings. Ever since grade school, I have felt my emotional barometer elevate on Fridays. It even begins to kick in on Thursday nights in anticipation of the freedom of the approaching weekend. Whether it was Mrs. Sarver’s spelling quizzes in third grade or Wally Flinchum’s world history tests in high school or econ exams in college or tough negotiations in my legal career, my pursuits have always been easier and I have been more confident on Fridays. To paraphrase the poet Jimmy Buffett, on Fridays “I’m God’s own worker and a fearless man.”
Friday nights have meant the thrill of being “under the lights” for high school football games and riotous parties in college and relaxing dinners after the end of the work week with my wife and friends. And Saturday mornings have meant early runs and coffee on the front porch and Saturday chores and peaceful solitude. Will retirement make every night Friday night and every morning Saturday morning? If so, sign me up now.
Let’s call it a draw then, at worst, between the agony of the end of the weekend and the thrill of its beginning. So I need to extend my analysis to the feelings of the other days of the week. Assuming that the consensus of my retired friends that every day becomes the same is accurate, I have to consider what other feelings I might be giving up when I retire.
Let‘s turn to Wednesdays then. Another good feeling night for me: hump day, back to college days for me, the weekend in sight. While I didn’t do much on Wednesday nights in college since it was usually a study night, there was still the promise of the weekend. The same feeling has persisted into my work life. I am on the right side of the weekly continuum. So Wednesday goes on the positive side of the “continue-to-work” argument. Wednesdays, the evenings at least, bring about a somewhat satisfied contentment and an expectation of better things to come.
What about Thursday? What feelings do Thursdays bring? This one is obvious. Thursdays are Wednesdays on steroids. A warmup to Fridays. Even in college, and despite being a steady and dedicated student, I did enjoy some Thursday nights. I would go out with friends occasionally or watch a game on television. Another habit that has stayed with me in my working life. I feel more entitled to fun on Thursday evenings. Less guilt. I think this Thursday feeling is based in part on my belief that I can get through a single day regardless of what I did the night before, that regardless of how little sleep I got I can make it to the finish line. So Thursday goes in the good-feeling column, a night I will miss if every day and every night becomes the same.
For those keeping score, that puts Wednesday night, Thursday night, all day Friday and Saturday (morning in particular) in the plus column for feelings I will miss if leaving the workforce means every day becomes the same. On the other side, on the side of the AARP folks, are Sundays and Monday mornings, mixed with a little melancholy from Saturday afternoons and nights.
But there is another consideration of the days of the week: Monday night. Most will probably guess that Monday is Monday, that the blues last all day long. Not so for me. I have turned Monday nights into mini-Wednesdays, a celebration of getting back into the flow.
I feel like I have conquered the end of the weekend letdown, that I am productive again. Carpe diem. Look out: rest of the week, here I come. I may not go out or do anything special, but there is a feeling of quiet satisfaction on Monday nights. Thus, add Monday nights to the feelings I will miss.
The tally pretty clearly points to more good feeling days or partial days than low points in the workaday world. So, on this scale, retirement seems risky at best. The cost of Sunday nights and Monday mornings seems well worth paying for the benefits of the anticipation and elation and contentment of the rest of the week. There are other considerations of course, so I don’t put myself in that category of “I’ll work forever” or like many lawyers who want to “die at their desks.” Might happen but won’t be by design.
One other matter has to be addressed. Tuesdays. No mention of Tuesdays. I’ve covered every other day of the week except for Tuesdays. It’s the only day of the week that doesn’t evoke any specific emotion or reaction in my mind. I can make myself feel down by thinking of Monday mornings, or I can make myself elated by thinking of Friday nights, or I can make myself relaxed by thinking of Saturday mornings. But Tuesdays? Nothing, nada. Maybe retirement is a series of Tuesdays?
I once asked one of my close friends from college who has been retired for many years what his days were like, did feelings change based on the day of the week or did the days simply run together? And if so was that good? His answer? “Sue and I drink more on Tuesdays than we did before we retired.” You got me what that meant.
One more thing about Tuesdays. I was discussing my hypothesis on the days of the week with one of our younger partners, Tom. I told him I could change my mood by just thinking of certain days of the week. I can make myself feel better by thinking of Friday nights and feel down by thinking of Monday mornings, but I had nothing for Tuesdays.
Tom said Tuesday was his favorite day of the week. I was shocked and asked how could that be? Tom’s logic? Monday is the worst of the week right? What is the furthest away you ever are from Monday? Tuesday of course ! So Tuesday is the best day of the week.
Evans “Buddy” King is a proud native of Christiansburg, CHS Class of 1971. He resides in Clarksburg, W.Va., where he has practiced law with the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC, since 1980. He can be reached at email@example.com.