Entering the 'Forest Stage' of life

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

have good news, unless you think it's bad news, in which case the bad news, unless you think it's good news, is that I'm retiring in June.

But it's good news for me. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, in some ways since childhood. On June 6, I turn 65. Yes, I know. Full retirement benefits don't start until you're 66 and those who know say you should keep working till 70 if you enjoy what you're doing.

I enjoy some of what I'm doing, but what I don't enjoy is how time-consuming the job is. Time is the most precious thing to me now. I tell people I'm retiring in order to start working, not stop — on personal projects, which have been idling impatiently in the queue for years, ready to surface as soon as life allows. It might be poetry, whose pull I have felt more acutely in recent years. It might be a grandfather blog (that seems a natural). But mostly I crave letting my mind roam free, without the fetters imposed by the deadline monster looming over my shoulder. Twenty-six years of that would tire anyone out.

The good news, unless you think it's bad news, is that I'll still be writing my column, though I'm planning to pivot and make it more locally focused. I will also be helping out around here on Mondays and Tuesdays with deadline — copyediting and generally helping push our papers past the finish line. So I'll still declare fealty to the deadline monster, but only two days a week. The rest of the week, for the most part, will be mine. 

I will continue to oversee the Viewpoints section, which is near and dear to my heart — being the vox populi of the paper — but I won't be handling the Calendar page (Big Week), obituaries, the Homes section, the arts (except through my column occasionally), or the myriad other requests, suggestions, complaints and corrections that currently end up in my catch-all in-box. I've never been the only "go-to" person around here, but I am that person for some. That will change come June.

The good news is I'll have more time. The bad news is you can never have enough time when your aim is creativity, which isn't something that can be "scheduled." Creativity is the result of living creatively, and that requires time. I have a sense of what it takes, and I'll learn more as I go along. The best thing is I'll be able to move at … a … slower … pace.

I owe a lot to this enterprise. Wednesday by Wednesday, I've learned much, serving what I like to call "the world's longest apprenticeship." The world has changed a lot since 1990, and so have I.

But I'm ready — more than ready really — to see what else I'm capable of embracing. I'm glad I'll remain connected to the goings-on in Oak Park and River Forest, but I'm eager to step away from the weekly treadmill. 

We all know that Oak Park is no utopia, but it's closer to my idea of utopia than anyplace in my experience. The longer I live and work here, however, the more I appreciate it, especially the people. I hope my future columns will help readers appreciate these villages, and living here, all the more.

Nobody knows how many productive years one has left after 65. Could be many, could be only a few. I'll savor whatever I'm granted. Since I was a kid, I've thought about this stage of life and looked forward to it. Just a hunch that this was where I would make my mark, whatever mark that might be. We'll see. 

Some call retirement the "golden years." Hinduism refers to it as "the forest stage" of the life cycle, where elders go off by themselves into the wilderness to live out their remaining days. I don't plan to wander away from Oak Park. I'm better off being connected. I just want to let my mind wander where it will. 

I know that aging isn't for sissies, as Bette Davis said, but even if the upcoming years aren't "golden," they'll still have a glow — and plenty to offer. Regardless of what's in store, I'm ready.

There is more to say on all this, and I plan to explore it in the next few weeks, but this week I just wanted to give notice because some of you have been on this journey of discovery with me for a long time. 

It is a privilege to write these weekly missives to you.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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Reader Comments

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Kathryn Jonas from oak park  

Posted: April 28th, 2017 10:18 AM

Ken, wishing you much joy in your "retirement".

Christine Vernon  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 6:43 PM

Ken, retirement and aging are indeed an adventure, a trip taken best when you look around for good role models. It helps with aging to be one of the people lucky enough to have come into life in a good gene pool and, then, a positive attitude - proud enough of your work and life to sign your last name!! Thank you for giving so many of us (even the people who seem eternally and chronically negative) the right to free speech, and a public forum to express ourselves Like you, I know Oak Park is not a utopia but wherever I have travelled in life, each time I come home, it is the place where I want to be, which is why I hope we all continue to be thoughtful in our stewardship of what we've been fortunate to inherit here. Congratulations and best wishes in all your new endeavors.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 4:40 PM

Ray, the oppressives are bullies and try to kill free speech when it differs from their views. I am certain that what many people living in OP & RF really think and believe is very different from what they may project and go along with in public so as to be viewed as " just like the cool kids" and/or to avoid being humiliated and oppressed by opressives mocking their right to think and speak publicly.Civility? Oppressives defend anarchy,. The peace and justice groupies are intolerant bullies who are likely closet haters of all they claim to ,embrace and support.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 4:05 PM

I missed the explanation on how Ken Trainer was ever an expert on anything at all. Was he a leader or business success? The headline could be -- Self appointed expert bag of hot air leaves the building. His ramblings were amusing at best, usually wrong, but its the tiny town paper so it is what it is. We are all going to be OK without the advice. I do hope as a person that he has a great retirement.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 3:23 PM

@ Barbara Joan - Sadly, in this community, Ken does speak for the majority! Those of us who refuse the progressive philosophy need to stand our ground and speak our minds. I always hold out for the idea that adults will take charge of state and local governments and put a lot of politicians in jail for what they have done to our state.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: April 27th, 2017 2:23 PM

vox populi (the opinions or beliefs of the majority). Ken, I respect your right to free speech, but you do not represent the majority's beliefs & opinion--what you write in the WJ or elsewhere is strictly a representation of what you personally think.. Each day is precious and must never be taken for granted at any age by anyone.You are not retiring from the WJ if you will still be writing for it, even if just a bit less now.TTYL

Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: April 26th, 2017 5:00 PM

I know it's best for you, but "who you gonna call?"

Martin A. Berg from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2017 10:15 AM

So glad you're retiring (for your sake) but still writing your column and keeping your hand in the Wednesday Journal (for our sake). See you among the trees of the forest...(probably in Austin Gardens).

Gail Simpson Wolf from Chicago  

Posted: April 26th, 2017 10:09 AM

Retirement is wonderful and so glad you can begin this stage in your life. I am sure you will be productive too !

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 25th, 2017 7:18 PM

Congratulations Ken! I have been retired for 15 years and find holding your feet to the fire an interesting post employment task. I hope that there will be jousts in the future as we each exercise our first amendment rights in defense of our opposing views on most everything except our grandchildren. I bet that if we got them together they might teach us about tolerance and cooperation.

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