Here’s one last reblog from my earliest posts ~ in fact, this was my very first post. I’ve really enjoyed this blogging adventure during the last twelve months and look forward to continuing the journey.
It was over a year ago that I joined the growing ranks of baby boomers beginning retirement. After more than four decades of full-time work, I was finished. I enjoyed my job (and the paychecks) but I was increasingly aware of my waning energy, life’s accelerating timeline and a bucket list that I hadn’t started yet.
When I began working in the 1960’s the government told me that the date of my “normal” retirement would be 2012. Back then that far-off date smacked of something from a futuristic, sci-fi movie. And yet the day arrived in what seemed like warp speed even though I worked an extra year.
During the months leading up to retirement, I was eager but apprehensive. While I was convinced retirement would be amazing, I fretted over how to fill all the free time I was about to gain. I’m not always the best self-starter, and some of my life-in-retirement visions were strangely disturbing. I worried that my daily routine might become sleeping in late, living in flannel pajamas until noon, and out of boredom, resorting to daytime TV.
That scenario just could not happen. I know there are plenty of senior citizens who keep working because they don’t have a choice. I know that I’m fortunate to be able to retire. But how would I put all that precious free time to good use?
There was no shortage of commentary from friends, whether retired or still employed, about my approaching retreat from the work world. When I probed for some assurance, their responses ranged from “Don’t worry, you’ll love it” to “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself” to “Well, it’s a different kind of busy.” I didn’t find the comfort I was seeking.
It seems that many new retirees plan on spending extra time with their grandkids. Others think that golf or travel will keep them busy. But without grandkids, golf skills or an extensive travel budget, that wouldn’t be my plan.
Finally I admitted my hopes and fears to my husband. He was already retired and I was sure he’d give me oodles of satisfying, easy-to-accomplish ideas. Instead, he challenged me to figure out what I really wanted to do. And he warned, “Life in retirement is still just life. Don’t think it’ll be perfect. And don’t waste all that time.”
My retirement bubble burst but I knew he was right. Without the structure that a job provides it would take discipline, effort and a solid plan to function well in this new life. It will be a different kind of busy.
So I began planning, of course, by making lists. The chores I’d been putting off – organizing files, de-cluttering closets, deep-cleaning the house and donating unwanted stuff were all on my new “To Do” list.
Okay, fine. I’ve got projects to do. And once I finish all that busy work, what then? What do I really want to do? What had I imagined for myself before life got in the way? What will give me joy?
Lots of contemplation revealed that my retirement wants-and-needs basically fit into six categories: health and fitness, friends and family, giving back, self-improvement, creativity and having fun.
Beneath each category I listed a half dozen or so specific objectives, projects and dreams. No bungee jumping or rock climbing. Just achievable goals that would require some effort. Hike the local trails. Make Dad his favorite, banana cream pie. Volunteer. Expand my vocabulary. Try watercolors. Learn to make a proper margarita. Not everyone’s idea of a bucket list.
When my retirement finally did arrive I discovered that it takes a while to unwind after the job. It takes time for the surreal feelings of this new life to dissipate. I’m not on vacation. I’m retired.
I took some time – but not too long – to let the feel of retirement sink in. That old flannel-pajama nightmare was still lurking nearby.
Today my list is my compass in life. It guides me toward where I want to be and prevents me from squandering time. But it’s open to fine-tuning, not carved in stone. I can add, change or remove items. It’s my list.
Do I have lazy days? Sure. Do I wander off track at times? You bet. But focusing on meaningful goals makes it easier for me to accomplish, create, contribute and have fun in retirement.
And that feels better than flannel pajamas any day.