The Pension Prison

In the documentary

'Queen of Versailles'

, Jackie Siegel says that her turning point came while working at IBM. 

"I came into the office early one day and I asked my manager, "Which project are you working on?"
He said, "I wrote my own programme to count down the years, days, months, weeks, minutes, down to the second of when I retire."
I said, "Well, why would you do that?"
He said ,"Because that is when I am going to start living my life."
I said, "Wow!" 
I put in my resignation."

The above recount shows a perfect example of what I call the 'Pension Prison'. It is a place where you become an inmate when your focus on time until you are "set free" to enjoy life, instead of finding ways to enjoy things now.

Your constant cellmates are Pessimism, Passivity and (Self) Pity, all of which feature in each of the examples below. I have met people who: 

  • believe that they can't find another job if they leave their current position. If they managed to find a new position, it would be in a dollar store 
  • Say they will never set their foot in the workplace again once they have retired, and that they will stay far away
  • Focus on the things they will do when retired, while complaining about the present
  • Have spent numerous year with the same employer and still complain frequently about tasks although they are part of the job specification

I have also seen big announcements by staff members on the noticeboard, about finally retiring. More than saying goodbye and showing appreciation, the messages have sounded like great exhales of relief.  

The key lesson for me is to find reasons and ways to enjoy the present moment. That is how we attract more joy, fulfillment and other things we want. When we complain and sigh heavily for each task, we attract what we don't want: boredom, negativity and passivity. 

As Eckhart Tolle puts it in 'The Power Now' 

“...the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whaterver form. Both are illusions.” 

For Pension Prisoners, retirement holds the promise of salvation ('One day I will be gone from this place. When I walk out through those doors, I will never return'). However, the only time we have is now. Tolle explains the illusion of time this way:

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”

What if each time we dream about retirement, we lose another moment which could have been spent soaking up the present. How do we even know there will be retirement? We never know which day will be our last on Earth. There was one employee who retired after more than 40 years with the organisation and shortly after sadly passed away. I hope that he enjoyed his work.