By Arthur H. Gunther III
In “retirement,” you get asked the same question — politely, of course, and with sincerity: “Are you enjoying it?” My answer is always matter-of-fact: “No, I’d rather be at the newspaper.” And that’s the truth even if I am otherwise “enjoying retirement,” certainly a relative term.
If you have reasonable health, if other creative opportunities have opened since leaving the job — ones that would not have appeared if you were still under the clock — if you have grandchildren to visit in Texas and locally, if you can help as a volunteer, if you can take a daily walk, if you can share time with family when the crazy hours of decades of deadline newspaper work often detoured that, then how can you honestly deny that you don’t “enjoy” retirement?
And I do, and I hope the same for other retirees. The trouble for me, though, is that I always felt like the country doctor — I did a necessary job that others could perform, yes, and I was as expendable as the rest, but my calling (and I think I was sent to it) was the sort, as is the doc’s, that you don’t leave until God takes you away. I wrote, I photographed, I commented. I cursed my job and many of the bosses every day, but that was part of the difficult daily birth that is a newspaper. In delivery, people were informed, and that is a blessing and a gift for those who receive and those who give. I never would have retired.
But newspapers and the rest of the media are in sea change, and though there will always be insatiable demand for information, delivering it economically and to people who absorb it electronically rather than simply in print are forcing downsizing everywhere. I could no longer get out of the way of the train, though I was grateful that it didn’t let off any of my colleagues, at the time at least. I made way for some younger people, who kept their jobs for a few years.
Five seasons out, I am thankful for the renewed simplicity of life, though I sleep no longer than I did working various shifts for 42 years. Curiosity is still my companion, and though the body ages, does the inner life ever get old?
But I can no longer — with fellow newspaper stiffs — glance up at the clock in the editorial office, chase deadline and then step back wringing wet from the day’s (night’s) delivery. We were doctors of a sort, and you don’t leave the job. It leaves you.
Arthur H. Gunther III is retired as editorial page editor and columnist of The Journal-News, a daily in Nyack, N.Y. He writes regularly at columnrule.blogspot.com