By Joe Rector

Well, my friends and many of my family members are now senior citizens. We don’t feel like oldsters, but our years tells us that we are. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we ran the halls of elementary school and went on to be the bosses on the high school campuses. At some point, reality stepped in and sent us out into the world. Looking back, are people surprised at how life happened?

In terms of career and employment, many people fell short of their goals. Most of us realized that our first jobs wouldn’t be in management. We were ready to start at the bottom and work our ways up. So, our days were spent completing assigned tasks. Many of us trudged to work even when we were sick. That sense of loyalty had been ingrained in us by our parents. Others returned to school in the evenings to acquire more training for advanced jobs.

We can look back and see that, in many cases, loyalty and continuing education in no ways improved our job status. Too often, promotions were passed out according to who kissed up the most or who played politics most adeptly. Companies sometimes disregarded employee loyalty as they laid off workers or cut positions to improve profits.

Still, some of us stuck with the jobs we’d chosen throughout the time. We were where we were meant to be. Teaching school was a job, but it was also a calling. Working at the plants in Oak Ridge provided a good life for us and our families. Being doctors brought satisfaction as we helped others. Developing a business and watching it grow was exhilarating.

Some of us planned to marry and have families. We wanted to settle down and put in roots deeply where we were. Our goals were for our children to succeed and do better than we had done. None of us ever consider that marriages might become rocky and end in divorce. No one gave a passing thought to the possibilities of marrying twice and putting two different families together. Others looked back with surprise that they managed to stay with their partners for nearly 50 years. How can that be? We aren’t old enough to have been married that long.

Now we knock on the door of retirement, or do we? Some of us old folks had children late in life for one reason or another. They might still be in high school, or they are attending college. For a few unlucky individuals, the children are all grown up, but they still live with parents. The moms and dads have no chance of retiring since they must continue to support the entire family. In other instances, situations occur that requires some folks to work even after retirement age arrives. Also, retirement income isn’t enough on which to live, so people either continue to work full time or at least work on a part time basis.

All of us hoped that by this time our coffers would be filled and that we’d want for nothing. In reality, wealth is problematic. Some of us saved throughout the years, but the amount might not have been enough. We lived from paycheck to paycheck during those early years, and stashing away cash was difficult when the children had grown accustom to eating and wearing clothes.  Our dreams of escaping to the beaches during cold months or of traveling through country and around the world disappeared.

Lest you think I’m a pessimist, let me say that life has been good. I am blessed with a wonderful wife who has put up with me for 43 years. My two children are loving people who have set out on their own paths. I have few regrets in this life, and for the most part, I don’t worry about them since doing so would change nothing. As we grow older, we sometimes reflect on our time here. It’s a question we all ask: am I where I thought I’d be?