I have the privilege and tenacity to spend most of my time doing work that I don’t want to retire from. While the work of creatives has always been commodified, I’m not in it for the money. Nor am I someone who is able to separate the work that I do from my personal interests and values. And despite the fact that work has become the center of our lives, I avoid conforming to narratives that support hustle culture and overworking at the expense of our wellbeing.
For the longest time, I believed that being a creative meant that I would continue to labour well into old age. One does not retire from being an artist; one is always an artist and, thus, will always feel compelled to create art. Now, however, I am looking at retirement not as a means to slip into economic redundancy but as a means to enact radical change in the world. Because if there’s something we need right now, it’s that.
I was recently introduced to the FIRE movement. FIRE stands for Financial Independence, Retire Early. “Financial Independence” means not needing to work in order to live. For some folx, this can be building out income streams that allow them to live lavishly. Others are striving to be able to support a simple life in a well-outfitted trailer or van. Whatever it looks like on the outside, everyone’s goal is to be able to have the choice to retire early.
Retirement has been sold to us as a release from responsibility. We labour for the majority of our lives and are then rewarded with rest and care in our later years. Given the state of our world, I don’t think that this is a luxury that will be around for much longer. What’s more, retiring early flips the script on the stage of life that folx are in when they find themselves with a lot more free time on their hands.
With free time comes the ability to take better care of ourselves and our communities. We have more time to explore the world and also to organize. Which feels like less of a choice and more of a responsibility at this point. Our environment is collapsing and our governments are failing us. Perhaps early retirement is an opportunity for us to get more radical as creatives. Like Toni Cade Bambara said, “The role of the artist is to make the revolution irresistible.”
What change would you create if money wasn’t a limitation?