Dear Retirement Plan,
I need you. I hate you.
You tell me all these wonderful promises about how you will be there for me when my body is overrun by time and wrinkles. You tell me that it’s okay for my back to be bent beyond its ability to work because someday you will support me. You say that, work or not, someday I will be safe and warm, no matter what. For all this, I am tempted to love you and call you my friend. I am tempted to make great sacrifices in order to make you happy. For all these promises, I am willing to commit to a long term relationships with you. Yet, if this were the full extent of our relationship, I would be well satisfied, but there is a dark side to you.
There is a part of you that causes nothing but stress and fear for me. It is the fact that I give, and give, and give to you and you offer no guarantees in return. I know, too well, that if society follows the happy rules it set for itself, you flourish over time, growing tall and thick like a redwood in northern California. On the other hand, should the rules not be followed, you readily abandon me. If terrorists attack or an influential person says just the wrong thing, you disappear without so much as a goodbye letter. Why must you be so fickle? Why should I still care about you and care for you? Why does the great wisdom in my life tell me to foster a relationship with you while I am still young?
I suppose part of the problem is you, but I am remiss if I leave this letter believing that things are all your fault. If I turn my gaze inward, I see a large fire and a vat of boiling oil. The fire is my resentment towards you and the oil is my fear of you. Independent, these have potential for great destruction and pain, but together…I see unrelenting fire giving off thick, black smoke. I see places in my soul that would otherwise be safe, melted and consumed.
In the list of many ills you promote, I am tempted to say, “You make me…” You make me lose sight of my true priorities. You make me despair at your flight from my life. You make me more concerned with my contributions to my world rather than my contributions to the people in this world. Yet even here I cannot blame you, for it is I who holds responsibility. You are the distraction, yes, even the tempter, but I am the actor. I am the one who brings these ills from theory into reality. I am sure there are several ways of living which do not require your presence, but, to date, I accept or seek after none of them. Instead, I accept the version of life where you are required and therefore must accept responsibility for the sultry results of your ills or the work required to resist them. Here now I find that this letter is not a scathing report for you, but an uncomfortable interrogation of myself.
Will I be fearful? Will I be controlled? Will I lose sight of what is truly important? Naturally, my answer to these, and other negatively oriented questions, is “no.” I would never willingly sign up for doing blatantly harmful things to myself and, if these problems could be solved with a simple “yes/no” response, then life would be simple indeed. Instead I can only see that this is the beginning of my awareness of the problem, to say nothing of my progress with acceptance of it or my action against it, for it seems that without each of these three: awareness, acceptance, and action; I cannot hope to overcome my adversities for long.
Thus, for you, Retirement Plan, I commit to grow in my awareness of the negative thought patterns you encourage within my mind. I will work to accept my chosen life, while working equally hard to make my life better yet, seeking to be always satisfied and never content. I choose not to leave this work and change in the realm of theory, but task myself with action and application.
I suppose, in closing, that I should thank you, Retirement Plan. Through your controversial and conflicted existence, I myself have become existential in this moment and have come to align my allegiance to the wisdom of awareness, acceptance, and action. I wish that you had not been the vessel for this insight, but I embrace the insight nonetheless.
The Young Man