We had dinner with a friend

Our friend is approaching their one year retirement anniversary. As might be the case with a lot of retirees I suspect they are questioning what happening with their life in retirement. In their mind they seem to think that they “aren’t doing anything.” Whether or not that’s true.

In this case we know the individual is caring for a physically failing parent at some remote distance — involving regular lengthy stays a couple hundred miles away from home. A couple kids and grand kids also means a variety of other events. And then there is maintaining a house, and checking in on other friends who also are retired and in varying degrees of health.

So, from an objective point of view they aren’t idle at all no matter what they may think of their situation. Still, that doesn’t prevent self-doubt and discouragement.

But during our meal the question came up:

If you could live anywhere you chose, where would you live?

To be fair I suppose the question should include the caveat “where could you afford to live” as I suspect many of us might have in mind an idyllic place that only the ultra-rich can afford. Still it’s a great question and one that Peg & I have answered for ourselves long ago.

Were it not for family here in Wisconsin I suspect we would have ended up in the South of France long ago. However our stint of full-time RV’ing convinced us that living at great distance away from family was for us not sustainable. The frequency with which we would want to be back here spending time with the is not sustainable and without loved ones in your life it’s pretty unfulfilling — at least if you share our same values.

So, given the fact that our options are limited to the U.S. it really comes down to the fact that after a lifetime of travel and seeing pretty much every corner of the Continental U.S. and Hawaii we have settled on Wisconsin.

I know that’s a strange “choice” considering the many people think the weather alone is sufficient reason for living elsewhere — and by “weather” they almost always mean “cold winters.” The thing is, that cold weather is not the be-all-end-all of Wisconsin “weather.”

We get a decent amount of precipitation here. Not usually super heavy — causing blizzards and flooding — though we have ben known to experience both. Not so little as to cause dangerous drought — although we have had droughts.

We haven’t had earthquakes or volcanoes — although if the Yosemite volcano ever erupts we and a good part of the rest of the Eastern U.S. will be doomed according to prediction. Still — it’s not a part of our everyday worries.

We have a reliable source of drinking water — the Great Lakes. A lot of places cannot say the same.

We have business and industry enough to keep an economy running as well as arable land for faming and animal production.

We like the social climate here. Yes there are problems. Milwaukee was one of the first cities in the country to experience forced school bussing because of our segregated housing. A lot has happened to change attitudes but it is still a city of great divide. Yet, with a strongly European immigrant history it’s a working class city and one we are comfortable with. Hatred takes generations and centuries to truly change and people here are working on it the best they can. I have noticed much more open discrimination and racial hatred in many other parts to the country — so all in all we are comfortable with a diverse but partly segmented population.

There is culture, music, and art to be found — though in our retirement we are less inclined to be attending concerts (uncomfortable seating) or galleries (sore feet) or professional theater (simply too expensive in retirement).

When we total up all these things and many more we find Wisconsin to be kind of like Goldie Lock’s grandmother’s three bears porridge: not too hot, not too cold, just sort of right.

But the question I’m sure arises for a great many retirees. Some have no choice about where to spend their time. They are simply too poor to make a major life change. Even if they could afford another place to live for many the one time expenses of making the move prohibit their moving to a cheaper / more desirable locale. For others they feel trapped by some “obligation” whether it’s real or imaginary. Our friend, for example, has tried living in their parent’s home town — a couple hundred miles away — and decided that was not a viable choice. Similarly they have a divorced spouse living locally who also has health issues and even though there are no longer any leal obligations to physically care for them they do feel a moral sense of duty that keeps them close — in spite of being angered and frustrated by the ex’s behavior. Sense of duty can be a real bear sometimes!

The “idea” of retirement; or what retirement is supposed to be; challenges many. There was a time that retirement wasn’t even a thing. We worked till we could no longer work and then we died. Not that long ago there was no Social Security check and the only social security that existed was the kindness of family and friends which sometimes wasn’t so easy to be found.

Complicating the evolution of “retirement” is the growing prevalence of communication. We SEE with our own eyes the lives of the rich and the famous and it’s easy to start envying them — or at least saying “I want SOME of what they have” even if not full time. Expensive vacations, luxury splurges, maxing out the credit cards to appear to live a lifestyle that one really cannot sustain. And I do say “sustain” because a great many people can “afford” it for a time until debt catches up with your bank balance.

I’m not sure our discussion over dinner solved anything for our friend. I know they are still pondering what they should be doing with the rest of their life — and there have been some frustrating realizations along the way. But I think it’s important to have the conversation — if with no one else than one’s self. No matter where you are going, if you are going to get there you have to know what that destination is and you have to set out a plan for what actions to take to achieve your goal.

I wish them good fortune; a little luck; and a lot of courage. Will that be enough to make them happy? Your guess is as good as mine.

On the general topic of where to live, I saw this recent graphic showing the incidence of meteorite landings across the U.S. — there are some places that are actually a great deal more dangerous to live than Wisconsin

US Meteorite Landing Maps 1700 through 2016

2 thoughts on “We had dinner with a friend

  1. Liz W says:

    We are realizing one of the things that frustrate us the most in retirement is not being physically close to our children and grandkids. For the most part we love living in MN. Winters can be challenging, especially when needing to walk a 70# dog. In a perfect world for us, they would all live close by, but instead Michigan, Texas and Washington D.C. are their homes. They have tried to come visit at least twice a year and we used to visit them twice a year pre Covid days. Our traveling has been severely curtailed for a variety of reasons. We too would have chosen to live in Europe but the need to be near family is too strong.
    Your love of Milwaukee is understandable. How fortunate you are to be close to your daughter and not too far from your granddaughter and her children. They are so fortunate to have you in their lives!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Our traveling has been severely curtailed for a variety of reasons.” — yeah, this has been a huge issue| for us lately. I’ll say more soon.


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