I’m doing what people do when they turn 65.
So, for all of you who know me as well as those of you who don’t, I am officially announcing my retirement from being disabled.
“How can you do this?” some may ask. In fact, I can hear a few of you asking that question right now.
Well, I’ll tell you, I gave it some thought, and what I focused on was the idea that those who live normal lives retire from their jobs, why can’t I retire from being disabled? I mean, what’s the difference between what they have done and what I have done? They have worked hard all their lives and deserve to live out their lives the way they want. Don’t I deserve, as much as them, that same consideration, to be able to retire when I’m 65?
“But it’s not the same,” some may say, pointing out that while they are no longer working, I will still have a disability after I retire.
That is not the issue.
Having a Disability is Not All Fun and Games
Sometimes, people look at me when I tell them I’m on disability and they nod their heads, as if they know I am keeping some kind of secret. They think to themselves that I have pulled one over on the government. Really, there are people who think that being on disability is simply a free pass, a get out of jail card, that allows you to not work, and, because you look ok you’re not really disabled. I even had one person tell me I did a “Good job.”
There is nothing I can do about how some people think, but the way I look at it, being disabled, although not recognized as such, is just as much, if not more, of a job, than going to work every day.
There is the daily, twenty four hour, minute by minute grind that rips you apart emotionally and mentally. There is no escape. You don’t get to go home at the end of the day. You don’t get weekends off. You don’t get a vacation.
What Does This Mean?
What makes me think I am even ready to retire from being disabled?
Am I done with therapists? Am I considered rehabilitated? Am I “normal”?
I. Don’t. Know.
All I know is, as with those who make a conscious decision to retire from their occupations, retirement for me is a choice. Ready or not, here I come.
I may not be ready for retirement… time will tell. All I know is I am taking the next step in my life; from now on I consider myself officially retired. I am no longer “disabled”.
There are reasons for retiring.
I have worked hard at regaining my life since I was 19 years old. Many of the victories during my “working” life involve me being able to do something that anyone else could do naturally. Those victories have come from simply wanting to be able to live my life, and have not gained me anything that I didn’t already have before my injury. Those victories wouldn’t be anything special to most people, but to me, those victories are oh, so precious and meaningful.
People who live normal lives and have worked hard all their lives certainly deserve to be able to retire. I think I should be able to retire after working a lifetime to get my life back after brain injury; because, as you all know, it is hard work. On top of that, it is lonely work. Thankless work. Emotionally and mentally draining work.
Living for the Moment
My wanting to retire has nothing to do with being able to retire. I’m going to do it whether I am ready or not, realizing that this decision I have made has more to do with my attitude and how I look at my life, than how I actually live it.
My retirement is the product of an idea that has been rattling around in my brain. This idea is very simple: hasn’t this gone on for long enough? Haven’t I worked hard enough? From now on, I am not going to be disabled. Instead, I am a flawed human being, just doing the best I can to live my life.
I’ve always joked that when I turn 65 I was going to “retire from being disabled”. It just seemed like a funny, wise-guy thing to say, but, as with most jokes, there was an element of truth to it, only that element of truth didn’t occur to me until just recently.
Saying I was going to retire from being disabled was a way of adjusting my attitude. The basis for my retirement is this: all my life I have worked to get to that place where I would feel as though I had achieved some sort of normalcy and life would come easy…or easier. I was always living for the future, living my life so that, one day, I would feel as though it had all been worth it, and I would be at a place of peace and joy.
I finally realized that I will probably never get to that place, and because of that, I better make an adjustment to how I was living my life. Most importantly, I decided I better start living for the moment now instead of always living for the future. To do that I would need to better appreciate everything what was going on around me and try very hard to live in the present. Be more spontaneous.
I will not worry so much about being organized, about planning and setting myself up so I would avoid missteps or errors. I will learn to accept being flawed and to enjoy what was happening.
I will learn to take a step back from what is going on in order to appreciate what has just happened, or marvel at the situation I have just found myself in.
I will try to be present–a completely new thing for me.
Living and working for the future was great and important, but I have realized that all there really is is the present, and by always concentrating on the future I was sacrificing my ability to live in the present. Saying I am retired allows me to think differently about my life, and to focus on what is going on around me.
Fantastic Frank Johnson says
WOW you gave me much thoughts for what you have written about and are doing. i am 71 years young having been blessed with my TBI more than 40 years ago and I never have thought about retiring from anything? let alone from my ‘disability” but If there are people here who may recognize me they know that words have power which is why I never refer to myself as disabled except when the government required it or my lawsuit required it. instead I refer to myself as differentially- abled. and that why even though I al officially retired and have certain senior rights that go along with that label which i use I am anything but retired. I am working on another comic book called the Dreamer @ which s now in its second issue (Dreamercomicbook.com) i am also working with Barry IRA GELLER on his LORD OF lLIGHTS project too he has produced some wonderful JAXK KIRBY prints pins and our first model and have many many other things projects going on! so while I a m officially “retired” from my job ..I was a Chemical Engineer at KODAK when I became disabled ” I have gone from being a disability person to a retired person 6 years ago took my retirement money from when which they offered me to buy it out and while you could call me retired I am still working so while I think that you can retire from being disabled I think that this use of the work retired is an acronym for going into a old age home or something like that i think you should chose a better word or words.. which I am more than willing to discuss with you. “Fantastic Frank “
Dennis Ray Hageman says
Great for you. I hope this next chapter in life is an enjoyable and enlightening one. From one TBI survivor to another, congratulations and keep on keepin’ on!!!!
Have a very merry Christmas!!
Dennis Ray Hageman
I have enjoyed and been inspired by your sharing what you are thinking and writing about. My TBI was 2014. I am learning to live with it and accept my new self. If retiring means you will no longer publish, I will miss it. Thank you for sharing.
Ronald Williams says
Hey Jeff, I hear the thought behind this. I usually put retired in that slot too.
Hope to be golfing at Mere Creeek this weekend. Should be warm enough to melt the snow. Good to hear from you.
Judy Arena says
I love this!!!!! I also am 65 and this speaks volumes to me. I have been looking to the future and what it holds for me, a TBI survivor. I will move on from this way of thinking (hopefully) . I left the BAF a year ago. I was spending way to much time and energy, but I really miss all my BAF friends. So maybe with the new year…….comes a new me. More God, less me and my disabilities. Thank you…….Judy
R Miller says
Life is frustrating while living with a “TBI”. Thanks Jeff for sharing the Article: I’m 65 and Officially Retired from Being Disabled.
I needed this today! Sometimes I lick my wounds since the traumatic brain injury is such a “Hidden Agenda” that NO ONE UNDERSTANDS.
I especially enjoyed your comments: I have realized that all there really is is the present, and by always concentrating on the future I was sacrificing my ability to live in the present.
What matters is the PRESENT not the PAST or FUTURE.
JoAnne Forte says
A Very Merry Christmas to You, Jeff! Congrats on retirement & best wishes always
David Anderson says
It’s like you are telling my story, my brain injury I was 17 and I’m 58 now and looking back it’s like a life looking normal but being different from everyone else. I’m signing up to see what You say , it looks good .
Dorrin Rosenfeld says
Wonderful. Good luck. (And I know many happy retired people!!)
Due to a T.B.I. I’m monobiocular, am unable to carry on a conversation. Headaches in the back of my skull, zero balance. Then there’s the energy thing.Bed at 9pm up at 6am, dealing with the inability to walk with out a gait.I walk as a really drunk person. The meds are way out of control.6 meds in the a.m. and 4 meds at 8p.m. My TBI caused me to sue my Employer for Hospital bills. I’m a Veteran,So I have military insurance and Medicare. I live on a lake in Michigan so I fish every day I can. Lake in my front yard and a lake in my back yard…i.e.,Huron. I drove and moved exotic autos for the company. That’s all gone.
I went from$ 100,000 to $24,000. Life is good. I explain to ppl that I have deficits. So I’m looking out over the lake at swans. Wishing I could walk in the woods,but I get lost in a phone booth, That’s why I can’t work. Weak today but it’s okay.Peace to all survivors.🎃🇺🇸🏴☠️