According to life’s great book of rules, retirement should be the satisfying, well-deserved culmination of a life spent in preparation for just this moment. Away from the stresses of the working world, able to pursue interests that are actually interesting, free to spend time as you want – darn close to the definition of the perfect scenario. How could anyone find they are anything but happy to be retired?
Be careful what you wish for…
What if you discover you are not entirely ready to retire? What if you are unprepared to fill your free hours with worthwhile, meaningful and fun things? Perhaps worst of all what if you become bored? The thought of twenty or thirty more years spent pursuing the same dismal course can bring on those retirement blues big time.
I enjoy being retired. But the beginning of my second act was anything but enjoyable. Having lost my job at the tender age of 53 no one was more surprised than me to find I was no longer hirable. Apparently 30 years of experience was no longer valued in the fast moving technology start-up rocket-to-the-moon companies I had been happily engaged with to this point. Upon finding myself “on the streets” I struggled for more than a year to find some fit, enduring multiple pulse-quickening sweaty-pit-inducing interviews but found no takers.
At first I was confused. To this point I had moved seamlessly from company to company with very little time between jobs. Someone always wanted me on their team. I thought I still had “it” but apparently that was not the case. What had changed so drastically?
I questioned my own worth. Was it something about me? Had I lost my mojo, was I no longer good enough? In the end I fear I was just too old to fit the bill with the twenty-something CEOs driving those enterprises onward. My original plans had been to work to close to age 62. Forced retirement could put a major crimp in the financial position I had hoped to be in before my exit. Not the best way to start a retirement life.
What if you find as you enter your “golden years” you are not physically or mentally up to launching a new life chapter? Many retirement age folks have worked long and hard along the way. Some may just be worn out. Now that you finally have the time to do all you dream of you just don’t have the energy. Talk about grounds for a serious case of the retirement blues.
What if you find yourself living your retirement dream solo? Probably not exactly the dream you envisioned but sometimes reality just the same. All those adventures you planned with your significant other, those spur-of-the-moment escapes, those travels to previously unvisited destinations, those peaceful times spent side-by-side reading or just enjoying being together – without someone to share the moment a piece of the magic is missing.
What if retirement is just not what you expected? You may be free to do what you want but do you know what that might be? Will an empty calendar be a good thing or not? You may have hobbies but are they enough to entertain you for ten or twenty or more years?
Before you let those retirement blues get the best of you take a moment to remember what you have dealt with and survived to arrive at this stage of your life. Each of us has faced challenges. If you have raised a family you have weathered storms the likes of which only fellow parents can imagine. You have withstood everything from teething to tantrums, sleepless nights to dance recital jitters, teen angst to bewildered young adults struggling to grow up, and on and on. You have to be pretty tough to get through all this with all your marbles (or at least most of them).
Many have weathered careers that were a far cry from what we imagined when we began. Not all bosses are a joy to work with. Not all deadlines are reasonable. Not all who should be promoted are in fact promoted. Sticking with it is no easy chore and yet you prevailed.
Retirees are survivors. Don’t sell yourself short. Call upon those super hero strengths you developed along the way.
I try not to worry about things out of my control. Too often I imagine all the bad outcomes that could be and then when the moment arrives it turns out not nearly as awful as I imagined. Unfortunately I cannot take back those worrisome moments spent in anticipation of something that ultimately never was. I am learning it is better to go with the flow rather than try to prepare for every possibility.
Coping with the blues is part of the human experience. Retirement blues is just another track on the same record. We have done it before and with a little luck and determination we should be able to do it again.