You’re Retired So What’s The Hurry?

According to my dad when the first of the year rolls around it is time to get outside and prune the rose bushes. If you saw the impressive array of wildly blooming plants displayed around his garden you would agree he knows what he is talking about. And so with elbow length leather gloves protecting my exposed arms and sharpened shears in hand I head to the garden to go about my yearly duties. Since I have to get down on hands and knees to do it right I have added a Styrofoam knee pad to the necessary accoutrement, something I would have never considered years back.

We have a collection of 22 rose bushes in need of pruning. The Dave of old would have put his head down and relentlessly powered through the whole bunch, taking brief pause for a glass of water or to wipe away drops of sweat from a dripping brow. The pace would have been anything but relaxing and by the time I completed the task I would be pooped. Back then I had the stamina to get through demanding chores along with an ever motivating dose of impatience. I pushed myself wanting to get it done to move on to my next activity. How could I enjoy the football game until my responsibilities were met?

These days I view things differently. First off I accept it may take me a bit longer and require more effort to complete those activities I used to effortlessly plow through. And that is okay. The hard part has been accepting the fact I am slowing down, gradual though it may be. Secondly I am realizing there is no rush. What’s the big hurry? I have time. I can set my own pace, one that fits my current energy level. Why do I have to get all 22 roses pruned in a single day?

And so this year I started out slowly, taking a breather when I felt like it and enjoying the beautiful day around me. I patiently worked through the first ten plants, carefully trimming away dead wood while shaping the bush so branches grew outward and did not cross one another in the middle. When I got to bush number ten, I called it quits. I cleaned up and headed inside feeling quite accomplished with the morning. I did not dwell upon the remaining twelve plants to be pruned (well maybe a little). The next day I got up, had breakfast, slowly savored a cup of coffee and eventually meandered outside. I gathered my tools and proceeded to prune the remaining roses. I don’t know how long it took – I’m not on the clock. Once completed, I pulled up a chair to admire my handiwork. I am beginning to understand the virtue of patience.

One of the reasons my wife and I selected Carmel Valley to retire is the easy access to hiking paths scattered throughout local mountains and along the Pacific coastline. We aim to tally at least 20 miles each week and generally have no problem achieving that goal. I do face one small challenge. When our path leads upward – as in a hill – my wife goes into what I call “passing gear”. I swear she walks uphill faster than she walks on level ground. I often find myself doing all I can just to keep up as she streaks toward the summit. But I am learning. It is not critical that I match her energetic pace upward. I can slow a bit and find a rate that I am more comfortable with. She may get to the top first but at least now I am able to enjoy the journey there as well. And the paths we walk take us through some incredibly beautiful countryside. Why not enjoy?

When we moved away from the Bay Area one thing we happily left behind was the horrendous traffic. After 30 years of commuting you would think one would become used to the perpetual state of congestion but that was not the case. So many times during my career I found myself mired in rush hour traffic. It did not even have to be rush hour. My frustration and stress levels soared as I watched time tick by knowing I was late for my next appointment. And there was nothing I could do about it. Rushing from meeting to traffic jam to the next meeting was taxing on my sanity. Now in retirement traffic does not matter. We are able to plan our trips to avoid busy times. Weekdays have become our new weekends. And if we do run into a little slowdown it is all good. There is typically nowhere we absolutely have to be at a specific time. We have learned to turn up the music and appreciate the fact that slow traffic is now the exception rather than the rule.

In my retirement I am learning there are ways to adjust the pace of life to an enjoyable level. Rather than hurry off in the next direction as I used to I try to keep things in perspective. If it doesn’t get done today, what is the worry? Instead of missing the world around me as it rockets by in a blur I am able to appreciate the moment and savor each experience. They say retirement is about the journey rather than the destination. I hope to enjoy all I can at a pace that takes me far from the hurrying world.

Do Something Now

About five years ago I found myself between jobs not too uncommon in the world of technology. For the first six months I focused all my time and effort on getting that next gig. I poured over job sites multiple times a day, sent resumes liberally to prospective employers, interviewed at a dozen companies, and networked until I was blue in the face. Unfortunately when that initial six months came to an end I was still unemployed.

I needed to find a job but was beginning to realize there was only so much time and effort you can put into the search. At some point you become burned out and disillusioned. If I were to interview in such a state of mind chances are I would not present the best of candidates. If I could not – and probably should not – dedicate every minute to finding my next job, could I spend time elsewhere in some meaningful pursuit? Since I was job free for the moment could I somehow improve myself and my situation?

I have always been intrigued by the idea of running my own internet business. So I figured why not try my hand at building a website? I could totally see myself working remotely from whatever location (preferably near the beach listening to the waves break along the shore) and loved the thought of being my own boss. So I came up with the idea of UniqueArtists.com, a portal to a collection of non-mainstream artists who did things a little differently. I diligently researched how to do it, put together my first ever website and signed up twenty or so artists who would pay me a small fee should a buyer find his or her way to them via my site. In the end I did not make much money but I learned a lot. I felt good knowing I took a shot at something outside my comfort zone, something which I had no prior knowledge or expertise. And I did not just think about doing it, I did it.

In retirement each of us is blessed with a good amount of time to spend doing what we choose. That freedom of choice can be incredibly empowering should we explore passions we may have kept on the back burner. But it can be a bit unnerving as well. With so much free time what if we run out of things to do? What if rather than boldly taking advantage of our new freedom we find ourselves sitting along the sidelines watching life pass us by?

I believe if you want to make the most of your retirement days you have to take the initiative. No one is going to hold your hand or tell you what you should do. It is up to each of us to decide to do something sooner rather than later.

I have always been a voracious reader which likely contributed to my interest in writing. Since I was a kid I often imagined myself writing a book. The biggest challenge was what to write about. But that wasn’t all. Just as important as choosing my subject was making the mental commitment to get going, to start writing something. One day I decided now is the time. I had tested the waters by blogging about retirement and figured why not expand upon that theme. Bottom line I dedicated four hours each day to writing my book and about six months later I self-published my first work. It might not be a best seller but the feeling of accomplishment it gave me was well worth the effort. And it took care of Christmas gifts for that year!

We have some friends who love talking about travel. They are well versed in the must-see attractions of various countries, have watched all the Rick Steve’s segments, and know the local history better than most teachers. But they don’t go anywhere. They are virtual travelers. Imagine the stories they could tell if they ventured beyond the safety of their home and immersed themselves in the world they only know from TV? In the end it is up to them to take the initiative, to do something now.

Now that we are retired my wife and I often talk about volunteering. There are many worthy causes to choose from and our area is big on getting involved. Somehow it has been six months since we moved and I have been unwilling to take that first step. Thankfully my wife jumped in and signed up for a few coming events. She will be the first of us to test the waters. If the reviews are good I will be my turn.

Getting started and engaged need not be a major undertaking. It is okay to take baby steps. I like to think about hobbies and interests I have had at various times in my life. Some were left behind because I outgrew them. But others had to be delayed because of commitments along the way. Now that many of those commitments are no more why delay any longer? Pick up that old guitar, finish knitting that baby blanket you started but tucked away in a drawer, learn Italian so you can converse with the relatives, paint the local scenery you know so well, cook that elaborate dish, or plan that long awaited trip. There is no better time than now to go for it. What’s on your list?