Retirement and Pickle Ball

By Phil La Borie

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines retirement as:

The act of ending your working or professional career.

While that definition seems clear enough, I think it’s a bit limiting. For one thing, it assumes that you’ve had either a working or professional career, which implies that you’ve either been employed by a company or corporation or been a doctor, a lawyer, or some other “professional.”

What if you’ve been spending your time doing something else entirely? Like being a housewife or husband, or a single mother or father raising a family? How about caregivers, or artists or writers? Do they ever really retire from that? And, the definition seems to also beg the question, so now what? OK, so you’re not working full-time any more, but what are you going to do with all that free time you now have on your hands?

For me, while I’m well past retirement age (and I won’t tell how far past if you won’t), I have no plans to live a full-time life of leisure, but is that for everyone?

On the one hand, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow substitute teacher. His plans for retirement include improving his Pickle Ball game.

Whoa! Stop right there! What in Heaven’s name is Pickle Ball? And who plays it? While I’d never heard of it, here’s what I found out.

Apparently the game was invented in the 1960s and is now one of the fastest growing sports in North America. Theories abound about the origin of the game and how it got it’s unlikely name, but one thing is certain – the ball is not shaped like a pickle!

Actually the game is kind of a hybrid of tennis and badminton and is played with what look like overgrown ping pong paddles. The ball is closer to a wiffle ball than a tennis ball, and the courts are smaller than tennis courts. Sounds like the ideal kind of pastime for those of us who have reached retirement age.

But enough already about Pickle Ball. It looks like a great way for my fellow teacher to pass his free time, and I wish him all the best in his new-found leisure.

But that’s not on my agenda. I just want to keep on writing, making art and developing new skills.

For instance, I recently learned how to mix cement (easy-peasy when you’re using ready mix) and pour it while working on a project for the Burroughs-Chapin Art Museum. You can’t imagine how excited I was when the darned stuff actually hardened! I felt like I’d discovered a whole new world. Not that I intend to pursue cement mixing as a full-time career, but I think it’s very rewarding, regardless of your age, when you learn a new skill or craft. And better yet, are able to put some newly discovered information to work.

It seems to me that’s simply a confirmation that when it comes to retirement hopes and plans, there clearly are different strokes for different folks. You can just relax and enjoy the sunset of your life, or keep on keeping on, working at something or other. In my mind, there is no simple answer and no right or wrong about what to do when you reach retirement age. And by the way, when is that anyway?

Now, in support of not retiring, there are all kinds of strong statements. Here’s one from world-famous cellist Pablo Casals:

To retire is to die.

That seems a little extreme, does it not? But then, you have to remember that Casals’ life was all about the cello. He played compositions by JS Bach on it every morning until just before his death in 1973 at the ripe-old age of 96.

Good on him, but perhaps the answer for the rest of us lies somewhere in between.

So how about considering this idea? Why not find something that you’d really like to do? Something that you’ve wanted to do all your life, but never seemed to find enough time to pursue. Go ahead and do it. You don’t have to go crazy with it; for instance, I only write and/or make art in the mornings. Well, OK, I do have to admit that sometimes I’m up in the middle of the night working on one or the other, but I do try to keep those artistic attacks to a minimum.

My afternoons and evenings are generally spent reading and or researching one thing or another. I guess you could say that I’m semi-retired.

Here’s another thought: If you’re supposedly retired, what better time to do something meaningful for others?

How about volunteer work? There are any number of opportunities available in our area. So many good, worthwhile causes to help with. They’re always looking for extra minds and hands, so why not get involved? Helping others is really a great way to actually help yourself.

As Dr. Dorothy L. Height once remarked,

Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop…*

For myself, I love working Saturdays with the Children’s Art Program at the Burroughs-Chapin Art Museum. Kids are just so amazing. Their insights, energy and curiosity are an inspiration and a whole lot of fun to listen to.

Finally, as Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) said in The Shawshank Redemption**

You either get busy living, or get busy dying.**

Now there’s a thought. While Shawshank was an initial box office failure, if you can believe that; it is now enshrined in the Library of Congress and is considered one of the greatest films in the history of film-making.

Having watched it innumerable times, I find that it’s one of those renewable resources that you can count on for inspiration from time to time. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s going to retire any time soon.

*** Columbia Pictures, 1994

About this writer

  • Phil La Borie Phil La Borie is an award-winning writer/artist based in Garden City, South Carolina. His work has been published in AdWeek, The Kaiser-Permanente Journal, Westworld Magazine and online at Phil is the 2015 winner of the Alice Conger Patterson Award offered through the Emrys Foundation. He can be reached at

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2 Responses to “Retirement and Pickle Ball”

  1. Mindy Lawrence says:

    Phil La Borie brought out the true meaning of retirement in Retirement and Pickle Ball. When you finally reach that time of life, you must redetermine what you want to do with your time and set sail toward that goal. He showed what others did and then told what he has done. Bravo for a fine article.

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Phil. an enjoyable read, and a great reminder that once we retire we should not curl up and quit.

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