June 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm (By Amba)

The second post that’s an e-mail doing double duty.

It’s not easy, it doesn’t feel natural, to work so hard, and so incessantly, and under such unrelenting pressure, at this age.  One doesn’t feel cut out for it somehow; there isn’t the energy.  I don’t know how much of this is really based on nature and how much on culture, the expectation programmed into us by the 1950s.  My brother David and I were in Florida — he’s “only” 51 going on 52 — both scrambling to keep up with our work, and I said to him, “You know, people used to retire at this age.”  Maybe the simple lack of precedent for this lifelong productivity is part of the problem.  Clearly, if it’s bad for us, it’s also good for us.  So go figure.

A better balance of work and R’n’R would be awfully nice, though.  No one ever feels replenished (not even the wealthy, as they probably drive themselves at least as hard as everyone else now; even those who only play make a full-time job of it, with competition, goals, and overtime).  Another big factor is economic anxiety, of course; another factor is these information devices that make it possible to cram so much more into a lifetime; you feel that because you can, you ought to.  The result is that there seems to be, actually and physically, less time; a shortage of time.  Maybe there’s a finite amount of time and it’s divided by the number of people on earth, so each of us gets a smaller and smaller slice of the pie?  We are living longer in better shape (because we work at it!), but our lives being longer doesn’t seem to compensate for their becoming narrower, faster, and shallower.  That makes time sound like water, something else the world is running out of.

But of course older people always feel like time is running faster (because it’s running out, like the proverbial toilet paper roll), and young people always feel like they have all the time in the world.  My father says his weekly magazines arrive every three days.

Meanwhile, one of the best-selling books of all time is Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Work Week.


  1. mockturtle said,

    I hear you! Having just turned 66 and having come perilously close to starting a new job in April I can say, without hesitation, I DON’T WANT TO WORK ANY MORE!!

  2. amba12 said,

    I still want to work, but it’s this “You can either have a life or make a living” choice that’s exhausting.

  3. karen said,

    Every morning when i wake him up, my husband says: “I’m tired”. ( Where does the period go- before the quotation marks- or after?)

    Of course, he smokes and i am convinced that he’s poisoning himself w/all of the chemicals. He smokes almost 3 packs/day. @37. He is in awesome shape, though. So far.

  4. amba12 said,

    The period goes before the quotation marks.

    But that’s the least of your worries.

  5. wj said,

    People retiring, especially when they were still in good enough shape to work, is a pretty recent phenomena. At most, they would cut down how much they worked, and focus more on things that took less physical effort (like helping take care of grandchildren). Certainly nobody who was as healthy as you (and I) are today would be looking to focus on “beach time.”

    That said, I could definitely stand to be in a position where I was dabbling, rather than having to focus on working to keep food on the table. I wouldn’t want to just kick back and do nothing. But having the flexibility to do things which count as work on any reasonable definition, but pay little or nothing, would be nice.

  6. karen said,

    What do you do for work, wj?

  7. wj said,

    Several things:
    — I’m working at a start-up which builds monitoring and analysis software for computer networks. Which means I do everything from writing manuals to coming up with product enhancements to building business processes.
    — I have found myself (to my utter amazement; teach me to leave the country for a consulting gig!) the Executive Producer in an independent movie company.
    — I’m working with a medical technology start-up (dealing with approaches to drug-resistant infections, among other things).

    I grew up on a farm, so I’m sure you realize that none of these is really “work” in the sense that farming is. But it’s what brings in the food money currently. ;-)

  8. karen said,

    Holy crap– not work for the bod, maybe, but your brain!!! Oy vey! Or, Oioioi.

    I have no idea what-all any of that explanation really means, you know. Yes, work on our farm is very physical- and the knowledge and language of bovine beasts a mj necessity- yet, we kind of stay in a rut- thank God for you all.

    My husband’s now clean hat off to you, wj. It was really starting to smell like my Uncle Boss used to– and that’s not a good kinda smell.

  9. amba12 said,

    wj — ha ha! That’s exactly how I feel about writing. Like farming, if you’ve ever done it — nothing else counts as work.

  10. realpc said,

    I was thinking about how I feel less motivated at my job and wish I had enough money to retire right now. Then I wondered if it’s because I am old (59) and therefore have less energy. Then I remembered how relentlessly and obsessively I work at my music hobby. There is no shortage of energy for something I find rewarding. I just have not been finding my job that rewarding because I am looking forward to retiring, and because my co-workers are younger and I always wonder if they think I am old and tired and worthless.

    So it’s just another myth, in my opinion, that we have less drive and energy when we get older. Our energy just might not be focused on a career.

    But it is true that time is different when you’re older, as you said because we know it’s running out. But we should try not to be so frantic. Rushing around is exhausting and prevents us from really appreciating whatever time we have left.

  11. amba12 said,

    Possibly, the treadmill of “earning a living” is less motivating; one wants to be living FOR something. This was the point of saving for retirement, when that was possible and if one was smart/lucky/foresightful enough. Earning a living, even now, is satisfying and honorable; the problem is when it takes 90% of your time and energy. I don’t have time to read or write or even just think for myself.

  12. wj said,

    karen, it’s not that it stresses the brain — especially since I can take breaks at will. It just takes lots of time. And a willingness to let one thing slide when something urgent comes up on another.

    My hat’s off to you and your husband, and anyone else who is putting in the time and effort to produce the food that the rest of us work to put on the table. It allstarts with you guys!

  13. karen said,

    :0)– thanks!

    I didn’t mean it stresses the mind– it just works the mind, harder than i think i could work mine. Farming is strenuous on the body, but it leaves the mind very open for thought– sorta mindless,a t times, as well.

  14. RLC said,

    Amba, your father is so cool!

  15. amba12 said,

    He’s all that.

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