I enjoy golf. I wouldn’t call it a passion; it’s more of a pastime, which is an interesting word in itself. We all know what a pastime is, but when you parse the word, it loses some of it’s meaning. It almost sounds as if we are killing time or even wasting it, but the actual meaning is a way in which we pass time agreeably, such as recreation, and golf is most definitely recreation for me.
When I sat down to write, I intended to think about my golf game, but I find that leads me to a wider topic: how I pass time. I do so in many ways: I love to read, I want to learn new things, I can enjoy both a walk and a beer and find combining the two a satisfying pastime, I actually like tv, sports are both fun to watch and to play. Now that I’m retired, I find I not only have more time to do these things, but I have the freedom to choose which pastime in which to engage . . . and therein lies the dilemma.
When most of my time was spent working, choice was rarely an option. I was fortunate to have a career with some autonomy, but I still knew I would be teaching 12th graders English from 7:45 to 9:10, every morning. That lack of freedom chafed, but it also provided security. I felt that what I was doing was productive; I was providing a service to both those students and my community; I wasn’t just passing time, I had purpose.
So, golf. Does it equate to my teaching career? Or is it just passing time? I’m thinking neither. Teaching, for me, was a passion for a long time, but that passion was part of the package. It came with the job. It’s one reason I chose to engage in it for so long; however, it is not necessarily more fulfilling or even more important than golf. In some ways, it was much more limiting, because the significance was built in. As long as I was teaching, I was automatically doing something important. How can a game even compete?
Unlike teaching, the game itself does not hold the importance for me. I have friends for whom golf is a passion. They work at it; they practice; they improve, they lower their handicaps. For me, the passions are really not about my score. It’s about being with friends, enjoying the outdoors, getting some exercise. It is also about improving myself. Hitting a shot well takes focus and mindfulness. Even more importantly, accepting the outcome means observing, not judging, so there is learning in hitting a shot that is not as successful, as well. And that learning involves much more than just the game of golf.
For me to be “in the zone,” I need to be mindful, not judgmental, observant, not critical, calm, not agitated. My friendships are foremost in my mind, and my success is gauged through smiles and laughter, rather than frowns and depression. If I remain focused on what brings passion to my golf game, I remain focused on what is important in my life. It’s what I bring to it and what I take away that counts. I’m not sure I always approach a round of golf with that intention, but I really should. It’s what changes a pastime into a passion.
Being retired challenges us to find purpose in what we choose to do. It is a much more creative process, and to enjoy it takes effort.
Imagine that: quitting our jobs means we have to work harder.