Retirement is About Learning as You Go

Chances are you will not be fortunate enough to predict with great accuracy where life will take you once you retire. More likely you will live through twists and turns, adventures and mishaps, ups and downs as you navigate the retirement jungle. You may think you have it all figured out, that you are more than ready to jump into your second act. After all how difficult can it be? Just leave the stresses of the job behind and focus on doing what you really want. Step up to submerge yourself in some serious rest and relaxation. Now that you have arrived, just let the fun begin.

For the first year or so as you begin to chart your retirement course, it can seem pretty easy to engage and enjoy yourself just as you hoped. Who doesn’t enter retired life without a list of important to-dos, a conglomeration of everything you have never had time for until now. Long neglected hobbies crying out for attention can now be rejuvenated. You are finally able to explore those trips to places that until now you have only read of. And simple relaxation that a busy career stubbornly refused to allow can be enjoyed. What a life!

Then as your second act progresses and you start living your day to day retired lifestyle, you may discover you overlooked a little something here or did not count on a bit of that there. Perhaps you realize those numerous hobbies you planned to revisit are not quite as interesting as you remember. Maybe all that freedom to do whatever you want leaves you a bit at odds. After all, 20 years is a long time to entertain yourself. And since we are such a diverse bunch of retirement travelers, there is no one roadmap to direct us exactly where to go.

I have found over my brief retirement that not everything I expected turns out as I thought. But I have also discovered that I can adapt. I am beginning to understand retirement is an ongoing education and I am learning something new all the time.

Rediscover what you really enjoy

A demanding career can easily take control of our lives. The intense focus and constant demands can have the unfortunate effect of numbing us to having a good time. With nothing but work on our minds, we forget what it is that we really enjoy doing. Who has time for fun when there are only so many hours in the day? Retirement can be our chance to take another look at what really lights our individual fires. We no longer have to only img_2151.jpgdream of the ever illusive free time – it is now ours for the taking.

As a retiree I uncovered a previously unknown interest in history. Now if you knew me as a student you would understand what a major shift this is. I wanted nothing to do with things of yore. History and geography had no place in my busy life. But this is different. Perhaps it is the fact that this time around I can study what I want rather than being force fed an inflexible diet of core requirements. I discovered a passion for French Impressionist Art as well as all things Parisian. I love the variety of the unique neighborhoods inhabited by novel worthy characters scattered throughout the snail shell configuration of her 20 arrondissements. While visiting, I became the flaneur I had read of, wandering the streets with no particular destination in mind, enjoying what I found around each new corner. Back home I attend on online courses introducing the cast of characters and social environment that made up the ever so interesting eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in France. A key attraction for me is the freedom to pursue whatever avenue I find most interesting for as long as I want. If I get bored or distracted at any point, I simply exit with no exam required to justify my existence.

Accept it is okay to slow down a bit

I have always been active working out, hiking, trying new things, pursuing various hobbies and just generally not sitting still for long. Even as a youngster as soon as my homework was done I was out the door to play whatever chosen sport du jour with the neighborhood kids. Now in retirement I am learning it is okay to remain stationary for more than ten minutes. I appreciate my newfound freedom to read a book during the middle of the day. Should I feel a bit sleepy after lunch I feel no guilt reclining on the couch next to the cats happily emulating their napping prowess. I am learning – reluctantly – to hand over the heavy grocery bag to younger family members (even though I could still carry it just fine…really…). When we travel, rather than tear up the town scurrying to see every site imaginable we appreciate a quite break at a café or park bench. And you know what? By slowing down I am actually able to better appreciate all that is going on around me.

Learn you do not have to stay perpetually busy

When I first retired I felt guilty if I was not doing something “worthwhile” every spare moment. Totally accustomed to performing at 110 percent all the time, the thought of doing nothing took some getting used to. I am learning that doing nothing hold its own wonder. Without every moment laid out ahead of time I can follow my own natural rhythms. I am a morning person and so look forward to getting out of bed and on with the day. But should I feel the urge to spend an additional hour in bed that is exactly what I do. And I do it without feeling guilty. It may sound easy but until you accept that you have real control of how you choose to spend your time, that gnawing guilt can hang out on the periphery.

The journey continues as does my ongoing education. I am realizing that I did not learn it all in school and there is really no age at which learning is over. With so many interesting avenues to explore and the freedom to engage, it appears that much of my education is just beginning.

5 Ideal Ways to Spend Your Days in Retirement

Not so long ago retirement was viewed by many people as the beginning of the end. Upon reaching age 65, your days of being an active contributor to society were pretty much over. What lay ahead was a peaceful existence, free from stress and anxiety, that was filled with time to relax and enjoy memories of earlier glories.

For those of us fortunate enough to live the retired life today, the picture is very different. Today’s retirees are not satisfied with passively watching life from the sidelines. We finally have the time to do as we please and have plenty we still want to accomplish. Although we’re not quite as energetic as we were at 20, we are far from out of the game. Here are some of the ways baby boomers are choosing to spend their retirement years.

Renew family ties. Many of us had to sacrifice family time in order to fulfill the requirements of our careers. Our calendars and free time – what little there may have been – were rarely in our control. We sacrificed attendance at little league games and ballet recitals because the job required it. Although we cannot make up those missed swinging monkeysevents, we now have the opportunity to spend as much time as we want with those we love. We may have missed out when it came to our own children, but there can be a second chance when grandchildren arrive. This time around we can be front and center for important moments. We can be part of the picture instead of wistfully viewing photos after the fact. Hopefully, now that we have the time, our children will be able to fit us into their own busy schedules and commitments.

Pursue work you enjoy. Some people prefer to keep working in some capacity in retirement. For them the job offers excitement and challenge they want to sustain in later life. Many people also wish to continue experiencing the camaraderie found interacting with co-workers. A meaningful job can offer someplace to go each day with measurable results for effort spent. Older workers who are unable to stay at their current job are free to investigate a new career or pursue a passion they were unable to do while tied to a regular job. In retirement you have a greater degree of freedom to chart the course you prefer.

Populate your perfect calendar. In retirement you become master of your calendar. You get to choose how you spend your days. Some people whose earlier life may have been perpetually hectic may find themselves with a wide open calendar. The less booked you are, the more freedom you have to choose how to spend each day. However, you could also choose to fill in the blanks with various activities. But in retirement you are able to include only what you really want to be doing. Tedious meetings can be replaced with new travel adventures. Cocktail parties need only happen with people you actually want to spend time with. As keeper of your calendar, you only commit to what you want to be doing. You can schedule as much or as little as you choose.

Get better at something you love. In my retirement I am committed to spending more time playing the piano. Lessons from earlier years come back to me when I put in some practice time. In recent years, I have discovered a previously hidden affinity for Paris. As a retiree I am learning its history and practicing its language. My sister has a passion for yoga and is going through training so she can become an instructor. She plans to focus on those over 50. Your retirement can be a time to refocus on what you love.

Take time for you. Retirement is the perfect opportunity to set aside time for personal reflection. That elusive downtime we used to dream of is now within our grasp. But if you do not make a conscious effort and take appropriate steps, you may find the hours slipping by without doing anything you find worthwhile. While working it was not always possible to stop and take a breath. In retirement, the day’s activities are in your control, and it is up to you to take time for yourself.

From my blog on US News & World.