“What Do You Do?”

That should be an easy question, right?

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“What Do You Do?” That’s a common question when you meet someone new at a social function. When I worked full-time in New Jersey, I would say that I was a software engineer, and of course, provide more elaboration depending on the circumstances. When I lived in Champaign from 2006 to 2017, I was generally “semi-retired” — sometimes working part-time. I often supplemented my answer with stories from my various volunteer activities that were mostly tied to my alma mater, the University of Illinois.

(By the way, in 2005, after I had left my career job at Telcordia Technologies, and was making plans to move from New Jersey to Illinois, I met an older gentleman on a vacation trip. Rather than the usual question, he asked me “Do you work for a living?” That’s the only time I recall it being asked that way. It happened to be quite appropriate for me, as I was in the midst of planning a transition, and not working at that time.)

I’m now fully retired, in the sense that I plan to never again work for a paycheck. Since moving to Chicago in March 2017, I’ve been enjoying the new experience (new to me!) of living in the big city, but I’m sometimes unsure how to answer the question. What do I do? (I have a friend who doesn’t like the word “retire” because it sounds like you’re just sitting in a rocking chair waiting to die. I’m not doing that!)

Because I don’t go to a job every day, I should have 40 hours a week of more free time (not to mention commuting time, and those occasions when the job took more than 40 hours). Sometimes I wonder — where does the time go! So, on a chilly rainy afternoon in April, I decided to figure out what I do, by looking at the data. I went through my calendar for the twelve months ending on March 31, 2018, and here’s what I found.

  • I was away from home, on seven trips, for a total of 34 nights (two trips of more than a week each, and five short trips). Although many retirees talk about doing a lot of travel to “bucket list” places, my travel consisted of visits to out-of-state friends and family, and some shorter trips back to Champaign. The one trip that might be considered “exotic” was a two-day trip to southern Illinois to see the total solar eclipse.
  • I attended a total of 45 performances during the year (including concerts, plays, standup comedy, and the occasional lecture). About a third of these performances were at the little jazz club in my neighborhood.
  • I attended 25 events associated with the University of Illinois — some were on my visits to Champaign, and some in the Chicago area, including athletic events and other alumni activities. (In order to avoid double counting, this does not include performances by UI groups.)
  • There were a total of 22 visits to museums and similar places, about a third of which were to the nearby Art Institute. And I enjoyed a total of 17 Scrabble afternoons, typically playing three or four games each time.

This list doesn’t include a number of other social occasions — lunches, dinners, and so on. I also was riding my bike on the Lakefront Trail (during warmer weather), as well as doing a lot of walking around the city. And of course, there are still mundane activities like grocery shopping and doing the laundry. Retirement isn’t all fun and games!

Like many people, I “waste” some time every day looking at Facebook and other online stuff. I also maintain an overly elaborate spreadsheet for estimating my taxes and optimizing my participation in the Obamacare health insurance market. (One friend told me that’s where all my time goes!) Oh, I almost forgot — I write an article for this blog, once in a blue moon. Although considering how (in)frequently the articles appear, I don’t think I can answer the question by saying “I’m a blogger.”

April 25, 2018