The R Word

The R Word

My birthday is in August. I’m not going to tell you how old I am. I’m just going to say that, in two short years, I’ll be eligible for Social Security. OMG OMG OMG How did this happen? One minute you are 30 and the next minute you are dealing with the R word.

We Baby Boomers don’t do this whole aging thing very well. We watched our parents work until a certain age, usually for the same company, and then they were escorted out with a party and a watch and expected to find their happiness and contentment in their “golden years” in homes in Florida or gardening or playing Bingo. But, for most of my contemporaries, we have changed professions and locations several times and are unsure how we define ourselves outside of “what do you do for a living?”

Of course, I do not have a very good role model for how to bow out of work life. My father, Doug, is 85 and still writing, still traveling, still working. He has slowed down some, but his eternal fear is that he will physically be unable to continue his work and that he will wither up in a corner and die. So, I’m not sure how to deal with my friends who can’t wait to retire or, even, some of my buddies who have *gasp* already retired. Really? What do you do all day??

My circle of professional associates is a lot like me. Most of us travel a great deal for a living. We are Air Cowboys. Instead of bragging about our golf scores or winning a tennis tournament at the club, we compare frequent flier miles and share war stories about getting stuck in airports and how many days we’ve been away from home. There is a certain arrogance and assurance that we are invincible and we can just keep climbing on planes and doing our thing. When we die, we assume someone will just stick us in our suitcase and throw it on a plane so we can just keep traveling. There is actually a small cemetery right outside of our airport in Oklahoma City and I’ve often said that that’s where I should spend eternity, with the sounds of planes roaring overhead.

But, the fact of the matter is, none of us is getting out of here alive. And perhaps we should consider what the next phase, the next steps in life should look like for us. What do we do when work no longer defines our worth? Where do we turn for satisfaction and purpose? When do we start considering the inevitable?

My father, Doug, the man who has never retired, wrote a book about retiring. I know, the irony is not lost on any of us. But, honestly, I think it’s one of the best books he’s ever written and, trust me, I would know. I edit all his work, so his words are eternally imprinted on my brain.

His book, The Back Nine—Life Beyond Retirement, speaks to those issues, those fears, those plans that no one wants to make, the truth that must not be spoken. And, it’s not just for the silent generation folks that are still with us. It should be for every Baby Boomer, either to assist their parents with decisions that are looming right now, or for those of us who truly are reaching that age where this is not “someday” but “today”.

So, as I face this not-quite-a milestone birthday, I will get that book back out and face my greatest fear—what do I do when I’m actually grown up? Is there life beyond TSA and hotels? How do I fill days at home, especially when my home is an apartment where there is no place to putter in the garden or sit outside with my coffee? Who am I if I’m not this? Big questions for a hot summer’s afternoon. I would encourage you to gift yourself with this book for your upcoming birthday, especially if you are in that over-60 realm. It’s never too early to start looking at life from the next window.


Glenda Stansbury is Marketing Director of InSight Books and Co-Founder of InSight Institute Certified Celebrant Program. She is also a speaker, a trainer, and an observer of life, and one of Doug Manning’s adorable and talented daughters. You may email Glenda at