What is Retirement?

This sounds like another one of my dumb questions.

It arose again for me at the ABA conference when many folks affectionately said that I am one of the busiest retired people they know.

The question reflects a common assumption of a false dichotomy between working and not working.

Rather than being a simple binary distinction between full-time occupational activity and indolence, many retirees think retirement is about their choice about what (and how much) they will do with their time.

By choice, many academics continue teaching as adjuncts after they retire (as distinct from teaching because it is part of their bundle of obligations as regular faculty members).  Teaching is largely invisible outside of one’s school (and often within one’s school as well), but you may know retired faculty who teach – and are a lot busier than I am.

We often think of work as activity performed for pay.  This ignores a lot of essential uncompensated “home work.”  Among other things, this can involve caring for friends and relatives.  Volunteering is a related activity that often isn’t noticed or valued.  After we stop full-time compensated employment, often there is more need and opportunity to do these uncompensated activities which are important forms of work.

At 66, I am a full-fledged senior citizen, drawing Social Security and getting health care benefits through Medicare.  Like many retirees, I choose to spend more time than I used to for my own enjoyment.  Not teaching creates a lot of room to decide how to spend my time.  I don’t have to respond to all the requirements of the academic calendar – like showing up and grading papers – so I have a lot more flexibility, for example, in deciding when to travel and for how long.

As you may have noticed, I like to write, an activity that has a lot of freedom – and is a lot more visible than the important work of teaching and academic governance.  I not only write for Indisputably but I also write a newsletter about national politics.

I hope that other current and future retirees in our community will continue to “work” in their own ways after retirement.

Connecting the dots between recent events, I became alarmed about the prospects for ADR in legal education.  I worry that law schools will hire relatively few new faculty because of the contraction of legal practice and education, and that many of the faculty who are hired will not be selected to continue our work in dispute resolution.  This is a particular concern for our field because we have a large cohort of fabulous faculty who will retire in the not-too-distant future.

Being part of our community has been an important part of my identity and, I daresay, for many of our colleagues.  If you are “retired” or will be in the foreseeable future, I hope you will consider staying connected, perhaps by mentoring younger colleagues or choosing other things to help continue the vitality of our community.


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