Retirement promises a chance to escape the busy lifestyle demanded by fulltime work and raising a family. After decades spent racing madly down the path of life ever struggling to make ends meet retirement tantalizingly tempts with that light at the end of the tunnel, that shelter from the storm, that taste of freedom well deserved.
Before retiring I imagined what life would be like when (and if) I finally got there. No more stress, no more hurry-hurry, no more time spent frozen in immovable traffic, no more struggling to make ends meet. I envisioned myself setting my own comfortable pace, choosing how I spend the hours, content in the knowledge I was in charge. And for the most part it turned out to be just that. But few things worthwhile just happen.After seven years retired (that went fast!) I learned when you finally arrive at the doorstep of retirement it is important to keep moving. Without a variety of interests or passions or distractions the dreaded boredom may find its way into your days and that we do not want. It took supreme effort and commitment to get here – now is not the time to live anything less than the best possible retirement we deserve.
Keep physically active
My wife gave me a Fitbit for my sixtieth. I have always been someone who keeps active. I can’t sit still for long before I feel the urge to move. Whether heading to the garden for a little trimming or firing up the vacuum to tidy up or throwing the ball for our ball-obsessed Boston Terrier Frank or walking up the hill, I like to keep moving. After wearing the Fitbit for a month I found my antsy nature translates well into steps taken for the day. The target is 10,000 steps each day which it turns out I regularly attain. I try to walk rather than ride when possible and take the stairs rather than elevator. I confess at the end of the day should I find myself close to but not quite at 10,000 steps I will walk up and down the house until I get there! Not really cheating since the goal is to ultimately get to 10,000 steps.
A friend from years ago who was a dedicated bodybuilder used to say “If you’re not lifting, you’re shrinking.” I like to retune that sentiment with the emphasis on staying active each day. “If you’re not moving you’re slowing down.”
Keep mentally active
The reality is if you do not keep your mind engaged you begin to lose your edge. That first year after quitting my job for the final time I felt I was not as sharp as while working. Nothing drastic it just seemed I didn’t have the same old pop in daily conversations. Without the job I did not have a lot new to talk about. My career was in sales where I talked with people all the time – that was the job. Now in retirement I was spending more time alone without the interaction I was accustomed. I love having time for myself. I am able to do what I want when I want for as long as I want. That was not the problem. The problem was since I found myself talking less those speaking skills taken for granted were beginning to dull. And that was after only one year! My retirement should last 20-30 years God willing so something needed to happen.
When I left my final job I swore I would never work again. Retirement was to be my salvation from fulltime employment. There was no place in my busy retired life for another job.
After a handful of years feeling relatively content ensconced in an assortment of interests that insidious boredom started to creep into my world. What I was doing began to feel routine, the same thing day in day out. I was running out of things to do earlier and earlier in the day. There were no new activities I wanted to explore. It did not look good.
Then I found what turned out for me to be the perfect retirement gig – pouring wine at a small tasting room within walking distance of home. Three days a week I engage with people from all over the world sharing some excellent wines along with the story of our winery. We tell tales and share laughs in a friendly happy environment (it is a wine tasting room after all). But more importantly I engage with others on a regular basis, keeping my mind active. And I believe my thinking is sharper than it would be if I was alone.
Find meaning (or a reason for being)
One positive aspect of a job is when you look back at the end of the day you feel you have accomplished something. You may not have solved the problem of world hunger but in your own little piece of the universe you made a difference. Achieving goals and completing tasks has a positive impact on our psyche. We are worthy, we made it happen, we matter. Retirement does not typically offer such milestones, such measures of achievement. But you can find your own ways to experience that satisfying end-or-the-day contentment. It may be as simple as pruning a row of roses in preparation for winter. You may exceed those 10,000 steps a day for a whole week. Maybe you plan a surprise sixtieth birthday party for your spouse who comes home from work to be totally surprised (totally) at the whole thing. That expression on his/hers (my) face can be incredibly satisfying.
With time on your hands there are many activities and undertakings, hobbies and interests, passions and experiments to investigate. Whatever floats your personal boat it is important to stay active and engage. You will feel more energized. You will be more interesting. And ultimately you will make the best retirement possible for you and those around you. Good luck and enjoy!