Since going recently into retirement, I’ve been getting advice about withdrawal trouble.
In fact, I had a taste of it 20 years ago, only days after easing myself out of newspaper work, as an active editor: I awoke with a headache so big it felt terminal.
The culprit turned out not as hazardous as I had feared; I had simply neglected my coffee habit too suddenly. Withdrawing gradually, I settled in no time at far less than the gallon I used to consume every day on the job.
With cigarette, on the other hand, cold turkey seems precisely the only way. No headache, in fact no physical pain whatever, accompanied the withdrawal, but the pangs are not anymore endurable; the feeling was akin to dying of thirst. But the health horrors of smoking are just too frightful and well-proven to be ignored: I have not taken a single puff in 15 years.
If there’s anything an old-timer might miss about newspapers, it would be the symphony of typewriters and teleprinters clattering, water cooler humming, fingers drumming, feet pounding, paper crumpling, and tenors and sopranos competing for the spotlight in a performance that in a few hours, once the deadline bell sounded, was over for the night. There, in those nervous, smoky hours, lay my romance with newspapers.
And it’s all gone, dated by a technology that allows a newspaper to be produced by a network of silent, cost-efficient, all-but-thinking machines that have usurped many human functions at the newspapers and begun, in fact, to cut off the physical half of their very constitution—paper. So, what’s there to withdraw from, really?
Having had some practice as a retiree, at any rate, I have at least a head start. As newspaper publisher and chairperson of the editorial board the final time around, I managed working from home, a beneficiary myself of the very technology I now complain about.
But again, retirement exacts its own price. Even in old age—indeed, especially in old age—joblessness can be trying, certainly psychologically but also materially, particularly for news people too scrupulous for their own comfort in retirement. I guess that’s why I’m getting all this thoughtful, if gratuitous, advice. But with yet some energized wits about me, I probably should have no reason to feel desperate for options.
Freelance journalism is, obviously, a settled one. Another option is teaching, although the course that for the moment catches my fancy has none at all to do with journalism; in fact, it’s a whole new challenge, possibly even a unique one: Survival Tennis.
I’ve thought of other names. Very Advanced Tennis I dropped promptly for sounding rather pretentious, if not too cute to draw serious attention. Terminal Tennis, on the other hand, sounds morbid. I gave Tennis for Seniors more thought, but decided against it in the end for two reasons: it narrows the concept, and it lacks the ring of emergency that makes for provocative salesmanship.
Survival Tennis seems to me just the exact fit for the twin contexts I have in mind: health and sporting fun. In a prospectus I have drafted mentally, I describe my idea as adapting one’s capabilities and attitude to reasonable expectations, so that one is not tempted to take unhealthy risks, yet still manages, regardless of the score, to come away feeling like a winner.
One such happy and healthy survivor myself, I intend to be my own living illustration. In all my eight senior years, I have beaten younger opponents, including a fair number of non-seniors, more than half the time, and never have I been hurt. (Don’t overexert yourself; leave that clear winner alone. Drop, lob—they’re the most potent weapons in a senior’s arsenal.)
For its sensibleness alone, Survival Tennis should be promising. But observing all the kamikaze tennis that goes on, little deterred by its absurdly heroic rate of casualties, I feel somewhat discouraged. In fact, trying to sound out one of the walking wounded, I end up only feeling sorry for myself. At my mere suggestion of easing up, he grows combative and growls back with words to the effect that tennis is not for sissies.
He himself should make for a good opposite example actually: it’s been months since he last saw action, and his hobble still could not be disguised; healing, after all, proceeds progressively slowly in one’s senior years.
But are there any among the likes of him inclined at all toward Survival Tennis? Or am I up against a general misplaced sense of gender, age and well-being?
Should I stick to freelance writing?