I have learned over the years that I am pretty good at entertaining myself. I have a wide variety of interests, hobbies and passions to pursue that bring meaning to my day. I have never had a problem being by myself. It is nice to have the freedom to do what I want spur of the moment. I can read a book or go for a walk, make my lunch even if it is not yet noon, catch a recording of last night’s favorite sitcom, do a quick workout or pretty much whatever else might strike my fancy.
Although I am happily independent I also like people. I enjoy sharing a meal and discussing current events. I am always ready to debate the merits of the current coaches and players on the San Jose Sharks team. I love a good joke although I am not very good at remembering them. I get a lot of satisfaction interacting with a variety of fellow life travelers.
When we retire it is not always easy to feed our need to socialize. Part of the program requires we leave our jobs behind. The good news is we leave behind the stress that typically comes with that job. The bad news is we also leave behind co-workers and friends who filled our day. We no longer have that chit chat and dialogue that kept us engaged and on our toes. Who will we share our stories and jokes with? With whom do we relive those bad calls made by refs over the weekend? Who do we debate the merits of current politicians and their cronies? One of the most difficult aspects of retirement can be the emptiness experienced when we leave behind those people who have become such an integral part of our lives. You hope the relationships will continue beyond work and sometimes they do. But more often with the separation of duties comes a separation of interests and loss of common ground.
Staying socially engaged can be challenging when we retire. Without co-workers our circle of friends diminishes. But staying socially involved is important to our health and happiness. Interacting with others can help keep our minds sharp. Debating, challenging, supporting and questioning require we use our brains. If we hope to prove a point we need to coherently argue our position. The more we talk the better we get at it.
It is amazing how quickly our ability to communicate can slow if we do not regularly engage with others. After being retired for six months I noticed I was not quite as quick as I had been while working every day. I had to think a bit harder to best express my thoughts and that was just six months into retirement. Imagine how things might be in ten years.
Fortunately for me my wife loves to socialize. She still stays in touch with friends from her childhood and meets new people all the time. With her paving the way I am a happy carry-on to various dinners and events I would never have been party to otherwise. Her social nature rubs off on me and I am better for it. If not for her gentle prodding I might find my hermit like tendencies overwhelming the social me.
We happily discovered a couple we know from a previous job lives just a mile down the road. They are a fun intelligent couple who we are spending more time with. My wife and I agree that if we could have picked one couple to be our neighbors it would have been these two. Since they have lived here for the past three years they have insight into various organizations and events we might consider to better get to know the neighbors. Based upon their input we have investigated a local tennis club and spa, scheduled our first attendance at the local gardening club, and met the wine maker at an excellent winery just down the road.
As newbies to the neighborhood we don’t want to rush ourselves. Rather than jump into too many things at once we prefer to take our time and investigate our options. We keep our eyes and ears open for possible activities to enjoy together. At the same time we look for areas that we might pursue individually whether a pilates class for her or a writing course for me or volunteering at the local park.
I am learning the importance of getting out there and socializing – even more so now that I am retired. If I can keep engaging and challenging my mind I hope to improve my chances of staying sharp into the coming decades. Interacting with others, sharing ideas, putting my memory to the test and defending my point of view helps me navigate my journey. And I never know what someone is going to come up with – there is a lovely unpredictable spontaneity about that. Socializing in retirement is good in so many ways. Best of all there are some darn interesting folks out there just as interested in meeting you as you are them. Enjoy!