After all the effort it takes to make it to retirement, it sure would be nice if once we arrived we could leave our troubles behind and look forward to smooth sailing and happy moments. We are done with the heavy lifting – now it’s time for us. And there is no reason not to hope for many good times as we start to navigate our second act. We have time and freedom to pursue what we really love. Ideally our health is relatively good allowing us to actively engage with the world around us. Our minds are still sharp, honed over years on the job and now free to explore new horizons. It is our time to get to it.
As the years shape us into the people we are, many learn that life is not quite that easy. Things do not always work out the way we plan – sometimes not even close. Why should retirement be any different? Along the retirement road we will likely confront unexpected bumps in the road, unplanned for challenges, and stretches of just plain bad luck. Being the resilient bunch we are we try to focus on the positive and endure any negative.
A number of people from family and friends to blog readers have showed me a few ways to help make the best of retirement. Their examples and chin up attitude helps to inspire and guide me should I get a little down in the dumps (not often but it does happen).
In past blogs I have shared snippets about my aunt. Currently age 73 and the recipient of two knee replacements (one per leg) she raises the bar when it comes to getting out there and living. Chances are when you reach out to catch up she is either on the road or planning for her next excursion. Recently back from two weeks in Croatia where she walked miles each day while sharing magnificent travel shots with those of us at home she is recharging for a few weeks and then back on the road again. On numerous occasions when we walk together I have to kick my pace up a notch to keep up with her – especially when heading up hill. She never complains. And she never runs out of ideas of where to go next. As she has told me on numerous occasions, she is going to keep up this pace as long as she can. She knows at some point – hopefully far down the road – she will no longer be able to maintain her love of travel and walking among the cobbled streets and fragrant hillsides that inspire her so. But until then she remains unstoppable. The moral to the story – keep on wanting and keep on walking.
A reader of my blog describes how he recently retired as his role was gradually phased out (I know how that goes). He has researched and read widely to prepare himself to best take advantage of the free time he is now responsible for. He is actively engaging with the community in search of like-minded people in similar situations. But he finds himself at a loss unsure what to do. He does not just want to keep busy but rather do something worthwhile. “I am still struggling to find that new center or core of daily life that is dynamic and vibrant.” Rather than feel sorry for himself he is taking action, trying new things, refusing to surrender. Most recently he is looking into starting a blog as he was a writer in his earlier life. Very eloquent with great ideas to share and a love of the written word, I think he has found a new direction that should serve him well in retirement. The moral of the story – keep moving and trying new things. Don’t wait for happiness to find you.
Another reader describes her recent entry into the ranks of the retired – ten days now and counting. She and her husband are enjoying exploring their neighborhood from a new perspective, able to pause to sit on a bench if they want to appreciate the birds in the trees and children playing in the park, partaking in the peacefulness that is so easily overlooked when we live our turbo working lives. Although a bit sad to leave behind the careers they have been a part of for 30 years, she is looking at retirement as a time to begin again. She calls herself and her husband “oldyweds” – “with a lot of similarities to our former selves of almost 30+ years ago when we were newlyweds embarking on a new journey that we didn’t know where it would take us. But hand in hand we ventured forward, as we will do again.” I like that. I don’t think it could be said better. The moral of the story – you are never too old to begin a new journey.
There are other stories of people successfully making the best of retirement life. As a new entrant I am enjoying myself and my freedoms. Knowing I am not alone, that others have gone before and still others are in the same boat allows me to feel safer, optimistic about what is ahead. You never know and it may not always be pretty but if you don’t go for it with all you have there is no one to blame but you. For better or worse, retirement here we come!