Lessons from my Grandfathers

Finding fulfillment in one’s work week.

Many people in my generation are hesitant regarding the idea of working late into old age. They view retirement as the time when one can start living their life. There is nothing wrong with having the goal of retirement and working towards it. But if people are able to find a career that is at least adequately fulfilling, there is no reason we should be aiming to quit our eight to five job at age 65. We live in a culture that says, “Live for the weekend,” but we should choose to find fulfillment throughout the work week.

My Grandpa Reimer is one of the people who helped instill this perspective in my mind. He owned a small family ornamental tree nursery, and worked there every weekday up until three months before he died at age 78. He found satisfaction in the manual labor—the hoeing, weeding; the feel of the Earth in his hands. Work was important to my Grandpa Reimer because it kept his mind active right up until he died. He was always quick-witted and sharp, right up until his dying days. Furthermore, when he returned home at the end of each day, he felt accomplished. In contrast, retired people often struggle to find a purpose; something they can find fulfillment in.

In some instances, one might be forced to close up a career at an earlier age, but that does not mean one must stop working. After my Grandpa Friesen retired from his medical practice at age 87, he kept himself busy by sewing rugs that would later be sold to raise money for international aid organization Mennonite Central Committee. My Great-Uncle Marvin provides DIY solar panel consulting to people in California who want to save money on their electricity bill but who cannot afford the pricey installation fees. Both of these people serve as role models to me because they have demonstrated how to live life well and still value work as innately human.

In spite of these personal examples, many with whom I’ve spoken claim the thought of retirement is what motivates them through an unfulfilling job. Fair enough: many times we find ourselves stuck in unfulfilling jobs or caught in the drudgery of commonplace tasks. But considering that retirement is a relatively new concept in the history of the world (coming into prominence in America through the 1935 Social Security Act), I propose we adjust our thinking in regards to our work life.

First, we should choose careers that give us satisfaction, like that of my Grandpa Reimer, as opposed to careers that make us think about retirement. Second, we should be grateful for the work that keeps our minds and bodies active on a daily basis. And when these considerations are met, we will find contentedness in the work week.

Guest Contributor Karl Reimer is a student at Biola currently studying Business Strategy and Philosophy of Ethics abroad at the University of Oxford in England.

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