This morning I read the story of Barbara Walters’ impending announcement that she will retire in 2014. The news was no surprise; after all, Walters is 83 years old, far past the age when most people retire. Of course, she is not like most people. Barbara Walters has made a lasting imprint on us in her 52 years of television journalism.
As I read the story, I was struck by the pattern of the quotes. I’ll isolate some for you.
BW: "I am very happy with my decision…I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain…"
President of ABC News: "There is only one Barbara Walters. We look forward to making her final year on television as remarkable, path-breaking and news-making as Barbara herself.”
BW: "I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women—and, OK, some men, too—who will be taking my place."
ABC: "We look forward to a year befitting her brilliant career, filled with exclusive interviews, great adventures and indelible memories."
Was he even listening?
Yes, Barbara has another year to work, and maybe she and Mr. ABC News actually are on the same page, but that’s not what I got from the article. I wanted to say, “Let her alone.”
We work for a living, if we’re lucky, most of our lives. Work gives us purpose and an income. We help others by using our special talents. We take pride in our accomplishments and learn from our failures. But then the time comes to move on.
Each of us has earned the right to define our retirement, in my humble opinion. I struggle with that every day. While I don’t want to spend my days watching television quite yet (maybe never), I am no longer employed in the traditional sense. I have projects, and some of them pay, but I decide which ones to pursue. That’s the status I’ve earned.
There is a state somewhere between climbing that mountain Barbara Walters talks about and retreating to a desert island a la Howard Sprague on the old Andy Griffith Show. Howard left his clerking job in Mayberry to gaze at the ocean and run barefoot across the sand, only to find out that complete inactivity didn’t suit him. It doesn’t suit me either, but I will fight for the right of anyone to make a choice.
Everybody has to explore the options when the time comes to retire. Barbara Walters, you, me. And then we choose which mountains we want to climb.Best wishes to Barbara. May she enjoy her transition and have many happy years of retirement.