When I retired, I had no idea what I was retiring “to”. I knew what I was leaving, but had not put any thought into what everyday life would be like without working. (Most “experts” will tell you this is not the best way to retire!) I expected to work part-time, as I was an early retiree and everyone expected me to have a second career. I expected we would be snowbirds; I was not planning on being a full-time Floridian (with an amazing waterfront home). I expected to travel a lot as that is what retirees do, not acknowledging my hubby hates to travel. I began a number of things that didn’t work out; it took time to figure it all out.
What I’ve learned in the process?
- I’ve learned to slow down, to appreciate quiet time, and to rejoice when a conversation doesn’t need to end because someone is rushing to the next thing. I enjoy my morning journaling, my slow shelling beach walks, doing the daily crossword, and watching the sun reflect on the water or lightening flash in the sky.
- I’ve learned to dig deep to find my authentic self. I’m still working on stopping the listening to the perceived expectations and undoing the social imprinting.
- I’ve learned to be positive! This is a big deal as I was definitely a highly critical pessimist. Practicing gratitude, taking time to savor the moments, and learning to accept what is have all helped here.
- I’ve learned everyone’s retirement lifestyle is different and all are OK. Figuring out what you need is critical. How much structure, travel, part time work, volunteer work, etc. are all personal choices. Sometimes it can be challenging to walk your own path (that social imprinting and perceived expectations!).
- I’ve learned you need to work on filling your “need gaps” that leaving full time work created. Whether it’s social connections, time management, sense of achievement, or sense of identity, if you have a need gap, it will not just magically be filled. This is not easy work and I struggled with post-career connections, identity, and sense of achievement.
Twice in the last few days, I’ve been asked, “What do you do all day?” Once was someone who claimed to have “failed retirement” and was back working; she couldn’t imagine life without working and her question was a bit patronizing. Another was someone approaching retirement and really interested in figuring it all out.
My answer: “My days are delightfully full.” I finally have a semblance of an exercise routine in my life. I take time every morning to journal – a combination of self-care, gratitude, and creativity. I enjoy blogging – writing and reading and commenting. I’ve got various projects I dabble in – I’m having fun with crafting at the moment, but gardening, cooking, and a study area (something that engages my interest) are elements that also fill my days. I’ve joined a few clubs, enjoy exploring our new area with regular experiences planned, shop off hours (no lines!), and have regular lunch & walking dates with long conversations.
I don’t feel rushed. I’m not bored. I sleep well and am probably the healthiest I have ever been.
I definitely didn’t have this life back on the day I retired! I took the time, getting to know myself, trying different things, and creating the retirement lifestyle that’s right for me. No, I certainly don’t feel like I failed retirement nor should be looked down at for not working!
So my advice for those contemplating entering retirement for the first time (or even a second time), slow down, try some things out, and focus on your needs and interests. You too can “succeed” at retirement!
Picture Credit: a double rainbow after the storm the other evening.