Starting Over?

So, I’m sitting here with Winnie (the pooh) in our thoughtful spot, on a hollow log (hoping there’s not a skunk inside) and thinking about life. The “stuff” that makes up our lives ebbs and flows through my thoughts, occasionally bubbling up to the surface. Sometimes that “stuff” generates more questions than answers, but eventually, answers come peeking through when one listens long enough.

Traveling and Camping in Retirement

Thank you, Lord, and Mr. Milne, for such a wonderful spot.

Ebbing and flowing in my mind today is “starting over.” We sometimes have to start over and sometimes just choose to start over. This time was a choice. As with all important choices, we weigh the risks and measure the outcomes; we look at the options and evaluate the costs. After all, Jesus tells us in Luke’s Gospel about considering the costs (Luke 14), right? Our choice to start over (this time) was “retirement.” Man! What a complicated set of questions are involved with this one! Will we have enough money? What will we do with our time? What about our family? How will we contribute to society? Is this what God wants us to do? Will we like ourselves and what we become?

We started looking at retirement about 15 years before pulling the trigger. We were somewhat unsure about the money part of it, and our “risk assessment” dealt primarily with the money aspect at that time. The other questions weren’t even on the radar until we began the actual retirement process.

Our time was the next consideration once we worked out the money. When Laurie retired from teaching elementary school art, she started a short-lived YouTube channel to teach art remotely. Art (teaching art especially) is her passion; a lyric from the song “Buy Dirt” comes to mind: “Do what you love, and call it ‘work.'” Thank you, Jordan and Jacob Davis, Josh and Matt Jenkins. When I retired from my Information Technology job at Shelby County Government, I tried a couple of projects around the house, none of which were sustainable as “work replacements.”

Things we have enjoyed doing in our leisure time continued to be camping, traveling (beach, mountains, lakes, and such), learning about places and peoples, and outdoor activities like canoeing and hiking. These we have done off and on over the many years of our married life. We “tent-camped” for about 30 years, and in the latter part of those years, we would always look at camping trailers and RVs. We bought a pop-up camper, traded it for an old Class C motorhome, and finally bought a Class A motorhome. We’ve enjoyed many family vacations in the motorhomes and even considered living in it full-time – starting over.

We have a house in Memphis, Tennessee. Most of my family and extended family live in the Memphis area. Laurie’s family lives in Northern Indiana, the Southwestern US (Southern California, Arizona), and the Northwestern US area (Washington state), and we are visiting them this year. All of our family react to our chosen retirement life with a mixture of “I’m happy for you” and “Boy, are you nuts!” and other things in between. We stop in to visit often and even help with projects they have going on occasionally, but I can’t help feeling as though I have abandoned them. For me, that is the biggest “downside” of this choice to start over.

A major “upside” family-wise is that we are free to travel and visit family we haven’t seen in “like, forever,” helping when needed. God asks us to love one another, look out for each other, and help each other when and where we can. I think He has provided us with the means and the drive to do that, which makes me think we are doing at least part of what He wants us to do. No one person can (or should) do everything, but every person can do something.

Family is VERY important, but the community is vital, too. In our house-based life, “community” included work-family, church-family, neighborhood-family, and town-family. Family and community (to varying degrees) involve relationships, responsibilities to be accomplished, and opportunities for helping. Community changes in this “life on the road” as our location-based community circles change. Neighborhood-family now includes friends we meet at campgrounds and people working in the areas around those campgrounds. With city sprawl encompassing more and more country land between the cities (see “The Caves of Steel” by Isaac Azimov), the concept of town-family gets somewhat lost. In traveling, the town-family now includes towns where our other family members live and towns near our favorite locations.

Starting over for us has been an “eye-opener.” Never before have we been afforded so much choice and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, as we don’t just flip a coin and go off in the direction indicated by the coin toss. We plan our trips and choose our spots based on activity and environment choices. Even with prior planning, we occasionally ask “Pinky’s” question: “What are we going to do today, Brain?” We relish the freedom to have a “down day” now and again.

I like having the freedom and the choices, but starting over in life can be difficult, sometimes even un-nerving – In real life. It’s often scary because of all the “unknowns,” but those unknowns can also be exciting. I enjoy starting over when I am playing the game “Minecraft,” but that’s not real life. I thoroughly enjoy playing Minecraft with my Grandchildren – well, they aren’t children anymore. One of my favorite things to do in that game is to leave everything I’ve set up and wander off in any direction, only to start again in a new place. Eventually, I circle back and “discover” a camp or castle I created earlier in an old location. I enjoy trying something different or improving on something I had tried earlier.

I’m beginning to enjoy our “starting over” in real life. So, how about you? Are you sometimes open to the new and the unknown?

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