When I'm Good and Ready

Still enjoying Live Long and . . . , William Shatner's just-published autobiography. Subtitled What I Learned Along the Way, Shatner delivers his thoughts on relationships, life philosophy, and memories of childhood, interspersed with some marvelous, funny stories one can almost hear him telling in that famous voice. He considers what it has meant to him to work and how he has approached it. “Just like everybody else, I have been working my entire life,” he writes. “I started working on a radio program when I was six years old and just never stopped. I never saw a reason to stop. There was never anything I wanted to do more than what I was doing. In some ways I have been a workaholic. I rarely go to Hollywood parties or just spend hours relaxing. For me, working is my relaxation.”

Here's the truth: some of us plan to work into our 70s if a company can be open-minded and farsighted enough to grab onto us for dear life. At some point, the corporate world is going to have to completely shed its last unjustifiable prejudice and retain the worker who desires to contribute well past what is now considered the age of retirement. We have the answers they need and the experience they may not yet realize they need. It’s funny to me how anyone can honestly dismiss an older candidate with the thought that he or she probably won’t be working very many more years. Who offers a job anymore expecting someone to stay for 20 years? How often have any of us have known a new employee to call one week in, saying they won't be coming back? All of us have watched those hired only a year ago, or 2, or 5 years ago, pack up and move on, or not work out at all and get a pink slip. If you think about it, there’s no guarantee any company will be around very long, much less aging workers. Why wouldn’t a company want the expertise and talent I possess for a good 8 or 10 years? That’s enough time to find someone young and put them under my tutelage.

I love my job, and I’m grateful to have been hired for it when I was past a certain age by a company that seems to have no qualms about hauling my decades of experience in the door. I have to admit that like Shatner, work is frequently my relaxation, and I want to keep doing it as long as I am having fun. There will surely come a day when the frustrations outweigh the benefits and I will quite happily hang up that part of my life and move on to the next. I hear of too many energetic, productive people who are gladly working well into their senior years to discount the possibility that I might be one of them.

Having loved his profession and the serendipitous path it has provided for him, Shatner notes, “No one should retire when their work remains pleasurable. What would I do if I retired? That’s the question I would ask anyone, whether they are a nuclear physicist or a laborer. If your job isn’t pleasant I understand the need to change, but retiring to sit on the back porch and rock will atrophy not only your body but also your mind, and it will do it within months. . . . People may retire from a job, but I don’t believe they should stop working.” I agree. We should live long, and work long if we want to, and prosper.