Mary Wells, Sheila Nevins, Lesley Stahl and Jane Wagner sat down to discuss the ifs, the whens and the whys of retirement.
SHEILA: You know what changed my view about retirement? Liz Smith.
JANE: Liz is an inspiration for us all.
SHEILA: Liz Smith gave me the courage to keep going, and to realize that I could do it because there was a role model. It’s very hard to find a role model in my industry who’s working in her 60s. It’s impossible. And just being with Liz and hearing her talk — I suddenly thought, “Fuck them. I’m going to stay until they kick me out.”
MARY: I mean, I think we’re all going to create — until we die.
JANE: All of you seem so turned on by life, still learning, still growing. I don’t see you all ever retiring.
MARY: You may go into another kind of field; you might change what you’re doing to something new.
JANE: Yes, you have the luxury of doing something different, taking a break to regenerate, maybe, but not to retire. Did you think there’d be a time that you would retire?
SHEILA: I thought I’d never grow old!
MARY: I haven’t thought about it at all either.
SHEILA: I woke up one morning and I wasn’t young. I didn’t plan for it.
MARY: It’s a shock, isn’t it? It’s a shock.
SHEILA: Yes, it is a shock.
MARY: What’s most shocking is that you feel exactly as young inside as you always did.
SHEILA: Yes. But a little wiser, don’t you think, Mary?
MARY: I think you are a lot wiser. But you look in a mirror and think, “Who’s that woman?”
SHEILA: I know that feeling.
LESLEY: That’s my mother.
SHEILA: That’s my mother. I think I’ll kill her.
LESLEY: Retirement scares me to death. I don’t want to retire. But I work for a company and I know that, one day, they’ll tell me it’s time. I so like what I do that it scares me. So I put blinders on and try not to think about it.
SHEILA: That’s just what I do. I do the very same thing. I just don’t pay any attention.
MARY: It’s changing — that you’re going to work where you are if you choose to, for years and years. That’s changing.
LESLEY: Well, Mike Wallace certainly did.
SHEILA: The thing is, you don’t want people to feel sorry for you. I once saw Maria Tallchief dance and she couldn’t quite do it. She should have retired because she couldn’t get en pointe.
MARY: But that was physical.
SHEILA: Yes, I guess.
LESLEY: You know, Sheila, you have raised the most important question: How will we know when it’s time and we haven’t spent one day too long?
SHEILA: Lesley, sometimes I tell the same story twice and I see this 25- or 30-year-old looking at me, and I say, “Did I tell you this yesterday?” And then I make a joke of it and I think, “Holy shit. At what point am I going to be doing that?”
MARY: Who cares? The 35-year-old you’re looking at can’t hold a candle to what you’re able to do.
SHEILA: I know, but you can’t help but feel it.
JANE: Sheila, a younger person would have attention deficit disorder and wouldn’t remember you told the story.
SHEILA: Yes, but they’d be taking Adderall, so they’d be OK.
MARY: You are all better today than you were yesterday or the day before. You are all fabulous.