Originally posted September 23, 2016.
You’re about to read the second installment of my brand new series, Your Retirement Life. We are in this together, trying to live a more prosperous, fulfilling life. It ain’t easy. But we can learn from one another. I’d like to hear your story. I hope you like this one.
When I was a kid we used to go camping. Not in a fancy RV but, like the good ‘ole days, in a tent.
My favorite place to go with my family and friends was Maple Park. It had a rope swing into the huge lake, a general store for locals to get their provisions, and a hayride at night featuring the Lone Ranger.
As it turns out, Maple Park wasn’t on a lake. It was a pond and the store was more like a gift shop. Oh well, that didn’t matter to me then. As it turns out Maple Park was only a 20 minute drive from our house—convenient so my dad could work Saturday mornings selling real estate, getting listings etc., and be back in time for an afternoon swim and the hayride at night. That was real.
It’s funny how you remember things as they were to you as a kid. The best times weren’t always about who was there—friends, cousins, aunts, uncles. They were there. What made it great was having the feeling that no one was missing.
In your retirement years it gets harder to capture that feeling. It’s not easy getting that small town feel. But it can be done. I hear wonderful stories about the Villages in Florida, and other retirement communities where you’re doing the activities that bring you back to a special time in your life.
It’s funny how retirement evolves. There is no special formula, just like there’s no special formula for investing or writing a song.
I love the story of how John Mellencamp—it was John Cougar Mellencamp when I was a kid—came up with his song “Small Town.” It’s a great story courtesy of the excellent Marc Myers series in the WSJ, Anatomy of a Song. Mellencamp had just purchased a brand new typewriter that would beep when a word was misspelled. Never a great speller, he admits, the thing wouldn’t stop beep, beep, beeping. “Well, I guess I’m just a stupid hillbilly. What do I know? I was born in a small town.” Ding!
You never know where a song is going to come from and you never know what your life will look like. But you always have the opportunity to discover something you never dreamed existed. As it turns out, your Maple Park, like mine was to me, could end up being in your own backyard. The fun part is finding that out for yourself.
By John Mellencamp
Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
All my friends are so small town
My parents live in the same small town
My job is so small town
Provides little opportunity
Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me
But I’ve seen it all in a small town
Had myself a ball in a small town
Married an L.A. doll and brought her to this small town
Now she’s small town just like me
No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
We can learn from one another. I want to hear your story. Tell me about your small town. Email me at email@example.com
John Mellencamp – Small Town
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