Retire, the Word

I retired. I’m retired. I’m a retiree. Is there a less appealing word for such an appealing status?

Literally, retire means to pull back or withdraw (think of tire on doors in France, meaning pull). That isn’t even what I’m doing. That definition makes me think of a horse who is trotting along doing its job, and suddenly someone pulls on the reins, stopping the horse by the mouth. What a horror.

The connotations aren’t pleasant either. Retire sounds like becoming tired, but even more so. Retire sounds like getting new tires, those heavy black ridged things that smudge surfaces and weigh down cars and tarps. Retire sounds like retread, as in paste something else on top of the old stuff because the old stuff doesn’t work anymore. And when some people say it, retired sounds like retard, as in slow it all down because things are too jubilant; postpone, decelerate, hold back, detain.

I never aspired to go from being an employed, engaged person with tasks to complete and folks to interact with, to being a chunk of glued-on rubber that slowed down to stopping when the reins pulled back on my mouth. I aspire to push through a set of flower petals into a space of nectar and breezes where formerly I could only peek. I aspire to check out the garden in ways I couldn’t before because I didn’t have the time or perspective. I aspire to try my hand at something new, but not in the same way as when I was a young being. I aspire to build off the base I already had, to proceed from the emotional and mental maturity I already developed.

I never aspired to be a re-tread—new stuff glued on old, or an old reel wrapped with more of the same. I aspire to be a huge essay that I edited liberally–moved blocks around, added a little, took some off. I did that myself. That is what I intended.

This portal merits a new name. If we have to err between two extremes, let’s skip the word that sends us to a place of burden and withdrawal. If frowning makes us sad, if smiling makes us happy, let’s relabel retirement.

Retire, the word: retire the word. Let’s jubilate instead.

Jubilarse is Spanish for “to retire.” Spanish-speakers can aspire to walking out the office door to jubilation, jubilance, “a feeling of great happiness and triumph*.” I jubilate, you jubilate, we jubilate (if we can.). And rather than “I jubilated,” how about “I’m jubilating?” Jubilation wasn’t meant to be a one-time event. The state beyond the portal is an active state. That’s the status I aspire to reach. 

Perhaps a new name for AARP? The American Association of Jubilating People.

* Definition of jubilation,

2 thoughts on “Retire, the Word

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  1. Love this reflection and recasting the word to more adequately reflect what most retirees, who retire by choice, feel. Bless you for this insight.


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