It should not be surprising that some of us can find the decision to retire a bit scary. After decades spent on the job doing something we are comfortable with or at least knowledgeable about the thought of big change is not always welcome. How are you supposed to prepare adequately for something you have never done before? For yours truly the decision was not mine to make. After the company I worked for was acquired (happens every day in Silicon Valley) I was forced to retire before I planned. I worried about how I was going to survive financially without a steady job contributing to the bottom line. I worried about what I was going to do to find meaning in my days for the next two to three decades. And I worried how retired Dave would define himself and fit into a world outside of work and the social interaction it provided.
I consider myself fortunate due to an unexpected and at that time unwelcomed twist of fate. It turns out the company I was working at before the acquisition mentioned above was also acquired. As a result, for eight months I found myself unemployed. In addition to pounding the pavement in search for my next gig, I took the time to imagine what my life would look like if I never worked again. If this was my last job whether my choice or not, what would I do? I never put any serious thought to retirement. Now seemed like a good time to do so.
I began reading all I could about retirement from books and articles and surveys and retirement bloggers. I talked with others who had retired to glean any bits of wisdom. I uncovered many happy stories of retirees enjoying their second act. But I also learned of some who found themselves struggling as they tried to cope with day to day challenges.
For some life in its current state was just fine. The mix of work and play along with solid personal relationships makes for an ideal situation. Who needs change? Why do something different when you are quite happy with things as they are? But retirement looms for most whether due to age restrictions or company reorganizations or health issues or any of many reasons. You may not want to retire but you may have to.
Who will you be when you are no longer working at a job? How will you answer the “what do you do?” inquiry at the next cocktail party? It is not always easy to introduce the real you when your job is no longer part of the equation. Retirement gives you the chance to redefine who you are, who you want to be for the rest of your life. But finding the way can be an iterative long term endeavor. And not everyone successfully arrives.
What the heck will you do when confronted with a blank calendar and no one telling you what to do? One of my biggest fears entering retirement was becoming bored. I have various interests and hobbies but would they be enough? When you retire you assume responsibility for populating your hours with activities that are meaningful and satisfying. What if you are no good at doing so?
What if those things I found so interesting in earlier years no longer light my fire? It makes sense that after a few decades one may become slightly bored with old hobbies. How many times can you do the same thing and still hope to find that level of excitement you knew in earlier days?
Although still relatively new at being retired I have learned one thing that helps me navigate my retirement journey – don’t over think everything. I have never been retired but there are a lot of happy inspired retirees out there so I know it can be done. I no longer define myself based on the job I do or in this case don’t do. Instead I am evolving into the retired me, someone who appreciates each day for what it has to offer, maintains a perpetual curiosity and doesn’t sweat the little things. My interests are varied including passions from earlier years as well as new avenues I happily explore. I no longer worry about being bored. And having the freedom to schedule what I want to do when I want to is deliciously empowering. There is so much out there to try and taste and feel and find – I can’t wait. Finally I do my best to maintain an underlying optimism. I expect bumps in the road but I will not let them become my focus. My advice is don’t be afraid – get ready to enjoy. I love being retired!