We must keep growing and learning

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While watching a graduation commencement, it occurred to me how similar graduation and retirement are. Most of the graduates were being asked what are you going to do after graduation. Quite often, acquaintances ask me what are you going to do after retirement? I usually respond by saying, “Retire from what? I’m doing what I like to do.”

I suppose I will keep on doing what I have been doing. At least what I have been doing that is important. I would suggest that graduates do about the same things that I plan to do. Sure, there will be some variations, but both of us ought to focus, generally speaking, on the same things when we move on. Here are 10 things I thought of.

1. Make staying healthy a priority. Remember to do all things in moderation. Avoid as much stress as possible. Keep a good attitude and get regular check-ups.

2. Stay current on the latest technology. If you are going to be a player in the 21st century business world, you will have to work with databases all over the world or else you won’t be on a level playing field.

3. Take some leisure time. Nothing is more relaxing to me than fishing in a river or creek or just observing the birds and wild flowers. Don’t forget to take that vacation.

4. Grow something. If you have not discovered the joys of growing a vegetable garden, let me recommend it. Growing things is important because it teaches us that we belong to the earth. We learn something about nature. Tending and caring. Patience and hope. Planting. Tending and harvesting can be metaphors for a well-balanced life; a life that never stops growing and blossoming.

5. We need to travel. I would like to see as much of the world as possible. See how other people live, what they eat, what they believe and how they order their communities. Travel enriches our own self understanding and our appreciation of our own homes.

6. We need to tend to our business that includes everything from watching our savings and investments to picking up our dirty clothes. Getting a job is just the beginning. Learning to be organized, to be punctual, to save and plan for the future are essential for a well-rounded life.

7. Read and read and read. I like to read good literature, both for pleasure and to enhance my own sensitivity to our common humanity. But it is also important to read newspapers, to read editorials and analysis of issues. You need to read in your profession, you need to read about politics, finance and economics. If I stop developing myself through reading, there is no telling what I might miss.

8. We need to be involved in service. This is another obligation that turns into pure joy. You get to meet the most interesting people. All of us need to find ways to serve others, formally and informally.

9. We need to work to be a good husband, a good father, a good grandfather, a good son and a good friend. It is not easy to be a family member or a true friend, and yet the quality of our lives is usually in direct proportion to our ability to be loyal, to share intimacy and to hold our friends and loved ones in genuine regard. The only thing worse than growing old alone is to grow old without precious memories of genuine and unconditional acceptance by another human being.

10. For life to be glorious, you have to face your own finitude and the inevitability of your own death. I don’t want to be morbid here. The simple affirmation behind almost all religions is that there is an ultimate, transcendent purpose to the world and to all that is in it. This understanding is the basis for all morality and value. Tending to the moral and spiritual dimensions of life gives every other job meaning and purpose.

Elroy Riggs