Today is the first anniversary of my retirement, and in honor of the occasion I have coined a new phrase. It’s my retireversary!
In light of this milestone, it’s a good time to take stock and see how the year has gone. In an early post, I stated my initial goals for retirement:
- To finish cleanup projects around the house;
- To learn how to “do” retirement happily; and
- To discover rewarding activities that feed me physically, spiritually and emotionally (and perhaps financially).
I also endeavored “to avoid driving my husband OR myself crazy, OR finding myself right back on the “busy” hamster wheel doing pointless stupid activities that provide no satisfaction or compensation for my time, which would be even worse than my old job (at least I used to get paid).”
I even included a prediction of what might happen over the course of the year:
By the end of the year, my lack of a specific or well-thought-out plan for retirement or any detectable notable skills or hobbies will propel me to:
- Get involved in one or more volunteer, non-profit or part-time work activities that will get me out of the house and provide social interaction and an outlet for my energy but provide enough flexibility to do trips and travel; OR
- Stumble across some presently unknown skill or hobby which will prove all-consuming and will lead me to become, for example, the next Barefoot Contessa (cooking) or Patty Sheehan (golf) or finally win the Valley Beautiful award for our house (gardening); OR
- Beg for my corporate job back after we spend all of our money and/or drive each other crazy.
I found it rather amusing to read these words, compare myself a year ago to myself today. I imagined writing my self-assessment in anticipation of meeting with my Retirement Supervisor for my year-end review, but am really glad I don’t have to. This year has been extraordinary, however, and I have learned much. Although I had some broad goals, I tried NOT to make any major long-term decisions or commitments this year, and to let the next chapter of my life evolve organically. I found this approach liberating, empowering, and at times uncomfortable and frightening. Three key things I learned this year:
I will never finish all my “projects”
There are so many things I never got around to doing while I was working. All the beautifully organized scrapbooks with our family photos and my son’s cute grade school drawings and awards, my redecorated living room and dining room with the great finds from swap meets and estate sales I would go to, the dinner parties I would host, the herb garden I would plant out back, and my perfectly organized closets and garage. Since I didn’t have time while I was working, these projects were all saved for my retirement years, when I would have plenty of time. Well guess what? I still have a finite amount of time and I still have to make choices about what I do with it. And there are many good reasons (besides lack of time) I never got to these projects. Like not really wanting to or not being very good at them. So, yes, I did clean out closets and drawers this year, but the garage is still a mess. (And, since 95% of the stuff in the garage is my husband’s and he’s not all that motivated to organize and purge, I’m choosing to spend my time and energy elsewhere.) I will never finish all my projects, but I have made some wonderful memories with my husband this year.
Finding rewarding activities is key
I approached the first year of retirement as my oyster, looking for pearls to be harvested. I tried all sorts of activities that interested me. I did not stumble upon the Great Talent I Never Knew I Had (at least not yet), but I found several pursuits that were enjoyable and meaningful and worthwhile (and some not so much). I reconnected with friends and family and tried to stay open to new experiences. I took community college courses, golf lessons, and cooking classes, enjoyed meals out with people I enjoy. I joined exercise classes at the local YMCA and found that I love yoga. I started writing a blog. I did things that fed me spiritually, joining a women’s Bible study, went on a Silent Retreat and participated in Lectio Divina (a method of praying and meditating on the Scriptures). I agreed to be on the Personnel Committee (but drew the line at also joining Session) at our church, and I have been helping a friend launch a non-profit organization. This past summer I organized a family reunion, since I’ve always wanted to have one. I’ve been able to spend more time with my college-aged son and other family. I was able to host my visiting niece on a madcap romp around LA. Sometimes it feels selfish to be focused on personal satisfaction, but I am learning that self-care is key to happiness and my ability to be fully present and compassionate with others. It is actually more selfish to expect others to make me happy.
Retirement is an adjustment
As generally happy as I have been, there have been some challenges and adjustments. One of the biggest was adapting to living in close quarters with my husband 24/7. We quickly learned that, when we are home, too much time together doesn’t work well. Once we learned to give each other permission and, in fact, encouragement to pursue individual activities, life became much easier and more enjoyable for both of us.
Which brings me back to my discussion of rewarding activities. I find I enjoy being busy and I like staying engaged with people. My activities (almost all of which I pursue on my own) have kept me feeling energized and fulfilled, and when my husband and I rejoin for dinner at the end of the day, we have things to talk about.
At the same time, we have also found things to do together. We enjoy traveling, and have found that we particularly love road tripping. We spent almost 6 weeks together on our Route 50 / Route 66 road trip in May and June and we thoroughly enjoyed the road and each other. Trying new things together, like golf, or a new restaurant or a day trip somewhere, keeps things interesting and instills a sense of shared adventure.
Other adjustments I had anticipated were (1) learning to live with the feeling of no paycheck coming in, (2) the loss of identity or respect in losing my professional position/title, and (3) a lack of purpose in life (with no job, and potentially spending all my time in the pursuit of personal happiness). To be honest, these were all legitimate concerns but so far have not been significant worries for me. We seem to be doing just fine financially (our pre-retirement planning has paid off). I’ve found that my identity and the respect I’ve earned from people I care about have little to do with a job title or occupation. And I am, almost unexpectedly, finding great purpose in my life. I have been very intentional about seeking discernment for my next phase of life and some rather remarkable experiences give me hope and excitement for meaningful life work ahead of me.
I was recently reminded that retirement is not a one-size-fits all proposition. A friend who is my age called to tell me that he is leaving his firm and taking a new position elsewhere. He and I talked often about retirement over the years, so I expressed surprise that he was not opting to retire rather than start over at a new company. He explained that he just doesn’t feel ready for retirement, and he can’t yet envision it for himself.
As I reflected on this, I felt a renewed sense of gratitude that the timing was right for me (financially and personally) to retire and that I was blessed with the energy and life circumstances to take it on with enthusiasm. There are many who approach retirement involuntarily or warily, and it does take effort to navigate the inevitable trials and changes. For me, though, today has proven to be a Happy Retireversary!