There is a second act after retirement


Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 12:12 a.m.

It's only been a month, but here's a progress report on how this whole retirement thing is working out so far.

I do this as a public service because I read somewhere that an enormous baby-boomer retirement bubble is about to explode in America's face.

And having observed my fellow post-World War II babies evolve from self-absorbed adolescents into free-love hippies into cranky tea party reactionaries, I know that we boomers need all the help we can get as we blunder into life's final frontier.

So feel free to take notes.

First the good news: I haven't turned into one of those guys who sits around the house all day in his bathrobe and mutters obscenities at the fair and balanced Fox News crew on the tube.

Not yet anyway.

Now the downside: I keep forgetting to shave.

I know, it's crazy, right? I used to shave every day. Now, once a week or so, I notice my shaggy visage in the mirror, scream, and stifle the urge to toss myself a quarter.

Still, that's been the only downside so far.

So here's my first piece of advice to fellow boomers about to retire.

Don't.

I'm not saying don't retire per se. After 36 years at The Sun, even I began to notice the impatient chorus of toe-tapping every time I walked through the newsroom.

I'm just saying that there is a second act in life. And retirement is a great time to grab onto that sucker and wrestle it to the ground.

For instance, my friend Parker Small — the UF epidemiologist who helped flu-proof Gainesville against the tiny germ-factories we call our children — says retirement gave him the freedom to travel. But he prefers to do it as a volunteer. Helping to solve public health problems around the world gives Parker's post-retirement life meaning.

Last week I attended a four-day Adventure Cycling leadership course in Clermont and met a surprisingly mellow guy from Tennessee who is retiring from a career as a federal parole officer. His new passion: to lead trans-continental bicycle tours.

This is ironic because I've often thought that if I ever had to go on the lam, the best way to evade the long arm of the law would be to ride a bicycle across the country. Who's going to spot a fleeing felon in spandex?

In my case, I'm still doing piecework for The Sun. They let me keep my Sunday column, obviously. I've tried my hand at a theater review for Scene. And I'm working on some stuff for Gainesville Magazine.

But that's not my second act by a long shot.

My new post-retirement day job is executive director of Bike Florida; a little nonprofit that is dedicated to making the Sunshine State a safer environment for cyclists and other living things.

This is very cool stuff for a former office dweller. I'm elbow-deep in planning for our spring tour next month in Lake and Polk counties. And I just spent a couple of days doing some preliminary recon for our 20th anniversary tour next year, perhaps in the Palatka-St. Augustine area.

And, listen, if you run an outfit called Bike Florida, the last thing you want to do is be seen schlepping around town in an infernal combustion machine. I've challenged myself to do nothing in an automobile that I can do on a bicycle. So far I've only had one flat tire on my Gainesville gadabouts, and all that pedaling helps keep me young.

So here's the deal, boomers. There is life after retirement. There is a second act. You just need to find your passion and chase it down.

Oh yeah, and will it kill you to grab a shave once in a while?

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.

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