Once you start to get the hang of life as a retiree it’s easy to find yourself slowing down a bit. There are not nearly so many things you must do. Responsibilities are fewer and farther between. Instead you enjoy the luxury of picking and choosing those activities and interests you genuinely want to pursue. Retirement is a time to revisit passions and hobbies previously ignored, forgotten or left behind due to a busy life. And you can control the pace at which you proceed. You need never go faster than you wish. Contrary to the working world, in retirement slow is an entirely acceptable speed.
A well-established routine can offer a certain level of comfort. Unexpected surprises are kept to a minimum. Doing those things you know so well does not require excess effort. You may repeat the same things but by now you know how to do each just right. And yet with no diversity in the day, if there is nothing new to look forward to, if you find yourself unwilling to try something for the first time you may be selling your retirement short. Should you become too comfortable, if you only experience what is well-known and familiar, you risk missing out. Sometimes along with easy and safe comes an uninvited guest – boredom.
This past week the locals of whom my wife and I are now counted were witness to the annual Carmel Concours. Owners of good-as-new antique, entirely unique and crazy exotic cars come from all over the world to show off what they’ve got. Of course as it is such a big attraction hordes of people show up to take part in the celebration. I am not a big crowd person. My wife might go so far as to say I do not like people. An exaggeration but let’s just say I prefer more intimate gatherings.
If I were to allow my natural inclinations to rule, I might stay home and happily read the details of the Concours in the local papers painlessly enjoying videos of the various best-of-breed automobiles displayed on the evening news. Boring! Instead my wife and I jump into the car and get as close as possible to the event on Ocean Drive – about six blocks as it turns out. We walk casually amongst the many four wheeled works of art appreciating them for their incredible beauty with spotlessly shined chrome engines and magnificently glowing paint jobs reflecting rich colors in every shade of the rainbow. Even more fun is observing the people who attend the event. Talk about a broad swath of humankind – truly worth the effort to get out and about.
Getting out and getting into life around you is an important part of a meaningful retirement. Watching from the sidelines may be easy but it is also unsatisfying. Experiencing life firsthand rather than as a passenger makes memories more vivid and heartfelt. Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed by the rigors of travel with endless lines for tickets and security and coffee and pretty much everything? Don’t give in. Don’t take the easy path. Try to imagine safely arriving at your destination with the travel behind but your journey just beginning. Be prepared, be aware and most importantly try to be patient.
Do crowds intimidate you as they do me? Sometimes the hassle is worth the wait (although not always). Our solution is to get to events early before the crowds descend and leave ahead of the mass exodus. We always bring a few bottles of water and granola bars to avoid lines and exorbitant prices. Most important for me I get into the right mindset. I prepare myself to accept everything will take longer. I cannot change that reality but I can try to not let it get to me and instead focus on enjoying the good things.
Getting out does not need to be a major endeavor. As retirees we have the luxury of acting on short notice. A show or concert or event can be enjoyed without elaborate planning. A limited time special at that otherwise overpriced beachfront resort can be jumped on even midweek. Driving is a wonderful way to travel to beautiful places across the country without ever setting foot in a crazy airport. All it takes is a little creativity and initiative on our part and we can be off and running.
I often find myself happily seated in the garden watching the birds, enjoying the flowers, happy to be alive and where I am. It is a good thing and I sure don’t complain. But as the years progress I plan to do my best to avoid becoming complacent. I hope to always sustain a curiosity that keeps me looking around the next corner. I hope I never feel too old to try something new, for the first time. I hope that when I lay my head down at days end I have no thoughts of having wasted the blessed hours given me. Retirement is a blast. Finding that balance between activity and rest that is right for you will only make things better.
Our new Boston Terrier Frankie is looking up at me with those big time-for-a-walk eyes. A walk will be good for him and for me too. It’s time to get out and about, to take advantage of what remains of the day with my happy four-legged-friend and to enjoy being retired.