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Author: 1HappyFool Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 753234  
Subject: Boredom in ER Date: 8/11/2000 2:11 AM
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The subject of boredom during retirement has been raised in a number of threads and I have found it quite puzzling. The importance of "knowing thyself" and having a plan and "structure" have been emphasized and these too are puzzling to me. Introspection is something I've always done, so knowing myself never requires more than an incremental update. The possibility that I might be bored has never given me a moment of stress, and I do not have specific plans to alleviate boredom. I've even pointed out in past messages that I think boredom is an affliction of those who lack imagination. Perhaps that was too glib. Perhaps it is not imagination that is lacking for some, but another talent entirely.

Aside from the obvious financial aspects of ER, I've noticed that there seems to be a focus on social or external aspects and also a focus on spiritual or internal aspects. I originally resisted the MBTI test because I od'd on flavor-of-the-month cosmic navel-gazing programs with the MOB I used to work for. I finally took the test and discovered that I was an INTP. I've been reading in this forum about introverts and extroverts and I think there is something oversimplified about these labels. On top of that, I think there has always been a negative stigma attached with the term introvert, so I did what comes naturally to me. I did some introspection about whether I was an introvert (I'll bet that came as a surprise <g>). Now I'm going to do something that is characteristic of INTPs. I'm going to attempt to do the impossible. I'm going to offer a definitive explanation for why boredom is a problem for some and not for others. I will specifically address why E-types may have more difficulty with ER than others and why I-types seem to gravitate towards ER.

Whether you consider E-types to be extroverts or externally directed or simply just people who get bored easily when their lives don't contain "structure", there seems to be one thing that all E-types require. An E-type without others is in trouble. E-types crave things that can only come from external sources. E-types need a peer group, or an audience, or fans, or action, or adventure, or anything but time alone with their own thoughts. It may not be fair to call them attention hounds, but IMO, they *need* others much more than I-types do. Their careers almost invariably provide a significant portion of this emotional need. This makes ER difficult for E-types. The peer group for ERs is very small and comprised mainly of I-types. This is not fertile soil for an E-type ER. Some of the things that satisfy E-type cravings are expensive and since E-types also need the company of others, the expense for the second person becomes an additional obstacle. One I-type can read a book much more cheaply than two E-types can go bungee jumping.

This explains why E-types naturally and usually subconsciously shy away from a premature departure from the work force. By postponing retirement until their peer group is with them, E-types don't have to find other sources for their needs.

I'm not saying that E-types are not suited for ER. I know there are many E-types leading happy lives of financial independence. It is their secret that I am revealing to you. There are two solutions to being a retired E-type.

I have a friend who is the ultimate E-type and he has mastered the arts of finding the external sources that fix his cravings without much conscious effort. He has done what he wanted for most of his life and assuming he survives, he will almost certainly end up old and broke and confined to a wheel chair in a medicare funded nursing home. I have no doubt that when that happens, he will be instigating wheelchair races with the other inmates and starting food fights and still having the time of his life. That is his nature. He has found one of the two solutions to happily being an E-type without a career. He has developed the ability to find other sources for his needs wherever he goes without resorting to adopting his coworkers as a surrogate family.

So I guess what this is leading up to is the advice that if you are an E-type, you need to understand this and do one of two things. You must either arrange to replace the essential component of "others" that your career has been providing or you must develop skills that will help you locate new sources of your emotional requirements. This is like arranging to replace your paycheck with earnings from your portfolio or finding other jobs that you find more fulfilling. You need to do this because for you, no amount of imagination can alleviate boredom. You will center your life around activities with others and failure to recognize this will lead you back into the working world out of boredom or result in one of the many forms of personality meltdown (eg. alcoholism).

Family and friends are obvious replacements for coworkers and creating a support group from among them is probably just a matter of joining a bowling league or setting up regular lunch dates with them. Making new friends wherever you go is probably a natural ability of E-types, so volunteering or becoming active in clubs will help.

All of this probably sounds as if I think I-types are somehow better than E-types because they are more independent. Let me explain why this is not so. First let me say that under ideal circumstances, I lack the capacity for boredom and I think I might speak for many I-types. This might seem like a gift, but I will explain the price I pay later. First about the qualifier of "ideal" circumstances. Ideal means nothing more than free of distractions, delays and unnecessary external influences. I get bored when external forces conspire to deprive me of the thing I crave most, the activity of focusing my mind. When I must wait for others and I am not in a position to proceed with something I want to do and I am unable to find another direction because I am fettered by something beyond my control, then frustration eats at me as much as I've seen inactivity eat at action addicts. If that isn't boredom, I don't know what is.

I suspect that many I-types will understand exactly what I mean when I'm saying this, even if they have never actually thought these thoughts. For me, the analyzer is always on. From the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, the analyzer is attempting to focus on a subject of analysis. When external forces interfere with the focusing, I cannot be happy. This is not to say that I'm always internally focused. I focus on external subjects as happily as internal subjects. I read. I watch movies. I hunt and fish. I crave the satisfaction of solving a problem or opening a black box to discover it's purpose or peering into deep space to see the difference between a planetary nebula and an open cluster. I crave input the way E-types crave attention and stimulation. When I had a career, the blessed parts of that career included the focusing of my analyzer. The bain of my career was that others would interfere with my focusing.

I flew towards ER, not because I had a plan or structure or a hot date with an exciting community of like minded individuals, but because ER would provide the one thing that my career was not good at providing; more time to focus my analyser. So far I am quite pleased with ER and have only been bored while spinning my wheels waiting for others. Realtors, home buyers, lenders, 401K custodians and the US Mail have caused me more stress in the past three months than all the moments of unplanned inactivity in my lifetime combined. I now have more time to explore, more time to find mysteries that need answers, problems that need solutions, fish that need frying and kites that need moving air currents to help them fulfill their purposes. Yes, I also have more time to goof off and do absolutely nothing but focus on the exquisite taste of a fine wine, the pleasant sensation of the decline and fall of a six-pack, the miraculous intricacy of the inside of my eyelids on a warm afternoon, the new kinds of birds around my new home and the joy of knowing that the phone will no longer contain the voice of anyone who can legitimately call himself my boss.

But I mentioned that there is a price to pay for being an I-type. The big difference is that it was mostly front loaded. All throughout my career, I suffered from the wrath of the people who needed social interaction from their employees and co-workers that I could not provide. I was called anti-social, but I could not tell them they were anti-productive. I was called "not a team player", but I could not tell them the goal was in the other direction and the wrong guy was quarterbacking. I was made to feel as if I was a necessary evil because what I did could not be taught to anyone who did not have the requisite focusing ability. I was expected to interact when interacting served no purpose and when I resisted, I was treated as if there was something wrong with me. These emotional assaults hurt. Nobody likes to feel like an outcast even when being an accepted member of the tribe is less important than solving the problem du jour. But, I've had 42 years to learn how to ignore the people who need my attention more than I need what they have to offer. Unfortunately, social misfits don't get the big raises and bonuses that the showhorses get and this probably postponed financial readiness for ER. In short, I was much less comfortable with my work environment than others and that inability to play the game resulted in dimished rewards.

I've never had more than a small circle of friends and those were usually equally misfit within the prevalent culture. Having a peer group is a good thing, but not depending overly much on them has it's advantages. I think some E-types might feel threatened by not being needed and might resent the lack of reciprocal attention. Along with everything else, ER provides a release from being in the presence of people you would not choose to associate with otherwise. To an E-type, this might not be much of an issue, but to me, it was a liberating experience.

Having said all of this, I am now mindful of the fact that I said I would focus on becoming a better friend and a friend to more in my fairwell email to my co-workers. I have done this and will continue to do this. It is emotionally rewarding. I have started with family and nearby relatives. I have taught curious youngsters how to read a star chart and shown them the moon's craters, the blurry blobs and the tiny pinpoints in the night sky. I have become more tolerant of others because I have more control over the dosage I receive. I still have a tough time with people who are almost totally social and minimally intellectual, but I guess that's just something for me to work on when I don't have a more pressing project.

I realize that I might seem a little more extreme than other I-types, but I suspect some of you saw bits of yourself in what I described. I've been looking for downsides to ER. I've experienced some stress over the fact that my home sale is stretching on and I've paid two more house payments than I expected, but other than that and some insomnia from irregular sleep schedules, I would call ER a raging success. The home sale will take care of itself, but if anyone knows how to get to sleep before 4 AM after taking a 3 hour nap in the middle of the afternoon, I'm all eyes.

1HappyFool
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