What Does Retirement Look Like?


Those of us who eventually cross the retirement finish line look forward to happy times pursuing diverse interests we reluctantly set aside while life and responsibility demand their due. And though the hard part is getting there, plenty of challenges await once we don the badge of retirement and strive to adapt to an alien life where each day’s activities are up to our individual preference. This new freedom can be overwhelming especially after decades following the rules, adhering to overpopulated calendar dates. We can do whatever we want for as long as we want. So how exactly does that look?

When I first retired I was pretty excited. No more work stress, no more commuting headaches, no more answering to the whims of those higher in the pecking order. I was free to do my own thing, to let the good times roll. So why not? My wife and I traveled all over the place. I knocked out that massive list of to-do’s I had been compiling for years. I revisited neglected hobbies from piano to gardening to ping pong. I attacked a stack of books amassed for just this time. For a while I was a busy bee happily buzzing from one activity to the next.

Unfortunately, after a year living the retirement dream, something was missing. As a rather organized person (aka obsessive) I found myself reviewing my accomplishments at day’s end. If I did not complete at least a few worthwhile endeavors I felt I had wasted the day. When my wife asked, “what did you do today?” I found myself struggling to offer anything of substance. How exactly do you define “worthwhile”? And worthwhile from whose perspective?

Back on the job quantifying worthwhile was straight forward. Complete the project on time; achieve the quota for the month; sell more this quarter than you did last. The rules were clear and success easily measured.

But once retired, for better or worse, what is worthwhile is not always apparent. Goals are much softer, indeterminant. Success is not so easily measured. Then again, isn’t success in retirement doing what you want, enjoying life and feeling good? Maybe I was overthinking the whole thing. Just go with the flow and don’t worry about impressing anyone. Be happy with living the day and enjoying all it has to offer. Perhaps a bit difficult to quantify? But so what.

With the current COVID situation my wife and I are together pretty much 24/7. Any disagreeable habits will come to the forefront under the spotlight that is daily interaction. But for us the close proximity has not been a problem. We each have our hobbies – she puzzles, attends yoga classes online, quilts, and hikes with select friends; I work out, go for walks, read, garden, and fiddle with the piano. It doesn’t feel like we are stepping on each other’s toes. I hope she feels the same!

And the fact we cannot dine out is no biggie. My wife is an amazing cook and with time on her hands explores new recipes almost daily. We have been eating like royalty and I happily do the dishes.

We have also learned to appreciate each other and what we have. I believe our patience has improved as we navigate a stressful time together. We understand the importance of supporting one another in difficult times, acting as a unified front. But also feel free to explore individual interests. Retired life has taught us it is a lot easier to have fun together if you can also have fun on your own.

We are still figuring it all out. Retirement is in no way stagnant – it is an ever-evolving journey with surprises around every corner. Enjoy yourself!

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

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