Beyond retirement, or, Is being a hermit a legitimate occupation?

Life is full of People. In fact, it is impossible to live in this world without relating to someone, at some point, for some reason. Often, I wish it weren’t so. Relationships are hard work for me. Always have been. I gave up my childhood ambition to be a hermit when I was informed I would still have to earn a living. I chose an odd career for a hermit–nursing. Happily, for over forty years it worked.

Now it’s time to revisit my original career choice. I believe I have what it takes to make a fine hermit. Allow me to make my case.

A while back, my sister and I had a conversation about the way one’s personal world seems to shrink as one gets old, uh, matures. It reminded me of the old Star Trek Next Generation episode when the Enterprise began closing in on itself and one by one the crew disappeared, leaving only Dr. Crusher… My sister was not referring to that TV show of course, merely pointing out that as we age, our social circle tends to grow smaller. We retire. Old friends may sell their homes and move in with their kids thousands of miles away; young friends with growing families no longer have time to spare much of it for us. And tragically, our circle narrows through death. Whatever the reason, it happens. It probably doesn’t have to, but it requires effort to reverse the trend.

I’m someone who doesn’t mind her world shrinking. (i.e. doesn’t have the energy to stop the process). I’ve led a busy, active life that was littered with people; all sorts of folks paraded through my life over the years. As fulfilling as that parade was, it’s not particularly troubling for me to watch the last float go by. I can now head home for a nice quiet cup of tea and mull over things.

I must say that so far hermit-hood looks grand!

But as usual there is a fly in the ointment. I’m beginning to suspect, sadly, that being a “legitimate hermit” is like trying to put a genie back in its bottle; i.e. impossible. In a world full of people how does one do Hermit-ing? Short of going to the wilderness–been there, done that. It was full of people, too–I don’t know how to really excuse myself from all society. For one thing, I live with my daughter. I have two other children who still require my social interaction. There are other family members who tug at me on Facebook, and to whom I must at least click, LIKE, once in a while. there are grandchildren, nieces, and nephews, oh my. And my two siblings–I can’t just cut them all off. That would be cruel as well as impolite! On the other hand, have I overestimated my value to said family and friends? Hmmm.

Perhaps I’ve underestimated my desire to be a true hermit. I just don’t have the courage–why is that the word I chose?–Surely I meant, desire –to completely cut myself off from people. I just want to downsize my social obligations, I guess. (Again, “obligations”; is that how I view relating to people?)

In summary, I’ve concluded that I’m a pale imitation of a hermit at best, or seriously schizophrenic and in need of intensive therapy and strong medication at worst.

Well! After that exhausting exercise in futility, I’m off to Starbuck’s for a pleasing beverage and a little people watching…

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