It is not always easy to maintain a solid group of friends after you retire. Back in the day when working full time we regularly crossed paths with co-workers, office personnel, bosses and a variety of fellow human beings. Whether congregating at the coffee machine, sharing a table in the cafeteria or riding an elevator there were plenty of people to interact with. We had options when it came to sharing life stories or asking for a bit of advice. And when Friday came along it was pretty easy to attach to someone or some group ready to get the weekend started. The common bond that was the job extended into private life enabling us to be part of something more than just our self.
Once you retire the tendency is to drift apart from those you no longer see day to day at work. It can become difficult to squeeze in time to get together with the demands of work and family and all that life has to throw our way. Without that common bond of the job you may discover you have little in common. Your circle of friends can begin to shrink as each goes his or her own way. The travesty is now that you are retired you are the proud possessor of free time to spend with those you choose doing what you want – but those people are no longer available. It is easy to find yourself feeling isolated.
It is not healthy to be on your own all the time. We benefit from interacting and engaging with others finding comfort in the familiar and security in friendship. Some are more social preferring to spend the majority of their time in the company of friends and family. Others are fine with the occasional get together and don’t mind spending time alone. But all of us can benefit from some interaction – sharing, debating, laughing, crying, bragging, or just experiencing the nearness of another.
When my wife and I made our recent move to retire we left behind a neighborhood where the kids had grown up, neighbors had become friends, memories were many and we were quite comfortable. It was scary to think of leaving this behind and starting over. But at the same time we were ready for something new, a fresh start somewhere different.
After slightly less than one year in the new digs we are adapting nicely. We are getting involved with the community and the neighbors although it has taken some effort. Many people in our neck of the woods have lived here all their life and established their own circle of friends. We newbies cannot just force ourselves into their good graces – it takes time.
We started out meeting the neighbors closest to our home. Since we live on a small hill, those up and down the street often walk by to get a bit of exercise in the morning or evening. When we see a face we don’t recognize we shout out a hello and find out if they live on our street. So far we have not scared anyone off. All are friendly and typically as curious as we to meet their neighbors. We have a wonderful family living on one side with great kids and a cool dog. On the other is a lovely retired couple with lots of travel stories to share and they are introducing us to bird watching. I can say over the past months here we have become acquainted with more neighbors than we met over multiple years back in the Bay Area. People just seem more relaxed, open and willing to engage in our new locale.
We also lucked out in that a couple we knew while working has a home about two miles from us. (Actually we knew the husband from the company where we first met. The executives there still say our relationship was the best thing that came out of that place!) My wife and I agree that could we have picked any one couple we would have liked to spend time with it would be these two. And we had no idea they were neighbors until we recently crossed paths. Can you say lucky?
For someone who is typically happy doing his own thing I am discovering how much I enjoy having others to socialize with. While I don’t miss the job despite numerous wonderful co-workers it is nice to have others to talk with and enjoy the wonderful world we lucky retirees are blessed with. Whether sharing a favorite hiking trail or best local vintner, hosting a summer dinner or attending a local event, playing dominos or just meeting up at the local farmers market, we really appreciate the friends who are part of our life in retirement. As Yeats said, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met.” I wonder who we will meet next?