Get To Know The Retired You

It is not always easy to get retirement right from day one. The business that has occupied our days for the past 30 plus years as we navigate our careers and family life is not the best training ground. Where our working years tend to be dominated by perpetual responsibilities resulting in the daunting challenge to find enough time in the day to get everything done we must, retirement for many can be the polar opposite. Instead of others directing us to do what they want – be that boss or child or spouse – living our second act finds us much more in control of our time and choice of activities. Retirement can be the best of times if you understand yourself, are aware of your motivations and passions, and have a clear view of the path ahead.

Before I “officially” retired, I often imagined what it would be like. Free to manage my time howsoever I envisioned days of leisure slowly unfurling as I enjoyed the new found freedom from stress in pursuit of what mattered to me. Without deadlines and quotas shadowing my every step I planned to find the perfect pace at which to live each day – goodbye rush and hustle. No more taking one for the team, no more heroically grinning and bearing it – I would finally be able to do what I want. I was ready to get the party started.

I optimistically (perhaps a bit naïvely) considered all the good that lay ahead, the positives rather than any potential negatives. After all what could possibly be negative when it comes to living in retirement?

It was not too long before I came to discover this retirement game was not always a bed of roses. I occasionally found it challenging to think of some inspirational activity to dedicate my efforts to. Once my initial list of to-dos was done, I found myself with an awful lot of free time on a calendar ominously populated by empty squares. Since most of my friends were still working they were not able to join me in my spur of the moment pursuits. There were a lot of factors I had not considered but for better or worse I was retired.

Knowing a bit about yourself and how you will react to retired life can help smooth your transition and ideally facilitate a first rate retirement. I just finished reading Hello Someday, a collection of thoughts and exercises aimed at helping you better understand the nuances of preparing for retirement. Rather than merely a read Hello Someday is an interactive workbook with prompts to help you dig into a myriad of topics all relevant to a living a fulfilling retirement.

One section focuses on identifying some of the most important things that have influenced and shaped who we are. The questions are relevant to ask at any point in your life but particularly so when it comes to planning for retirement. If you can get yourself thinking about those important things before you retire you might better prepare for the decades ahead. Here are a few of my favorite questions:

What is your proudest moment so far?

What always brings a smile to your face?

What would you like to have happen in your life this year?

What things would you like to stop doing?

Identifying and understanding what makes us happy, inspires us, and gets us fired to live each new day can help target our efforts toward achieving those things most essential to our individual happiness. If you know what to look for, if you know what you love retirement can be your chance to go for it. Many new experiences await some to be enjoyed for the first time. As Pliny the Elder said, “What is there that does not appear marvelous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time?” The retirement each of us live can be marvelous. We just have to know where to look.

Making Friends in Retirement

It is not always easy to maintain a solid group of friends after you retire. Back in the day when working full time we regularly crossed paths with co-workers, office personnel, bosses and a variety of fellow human beings. Whether congregating at the coffee machine, sharing a table in the cafeteria or riding an elevator there were plenty of people to interact with. We had options when it came to sharing life stories or asking for a bit of advice. And when Friday came along it was pretty easy to attach to someone or some group ready to get the weekend started. The common bond that was the job extended into private life enabling us to be part of something more than just our self.

Once you retire the tendency is to drift apart from those you no longer see day to day at work. It can become difficult to squeeze in time to get together with the demands of work and family and all that life has to throw our way. Without that common bond of the job you may discover you have little in common. Your circle of friends can begin to shrink as each goes his or her own way. The travesty is now that you are retired you are the proud possessor of free time to spend with those you choose doing what you want – but those people are no longer available. It is easy to find yourself feeling isolated.

It is not healthy to be on your own all the time. We benefit from interacting and engaging with others finding comfort in the familiar and security in friendship. Some are more social preferring to spend the majority of their time in the company of friends and family. Others are fine with the occasional get together and don’t mind spending time alone. But all of us can benefit from some interaction – sharing, debating, laughing, crying, bragging, or just experiencing the nearness of another.

When my wife and I made our recent move to retire we left behind a neighborhood where the kids had grown up, neighbors had become friends, memories were many and we were quite comfortable. It was scary to think of leaving this behind and starting over. But at the same time we were ready for something new, a fresh start somewhere different.

After slightly less than one year in the new digs we are adapting nicely. We are getting involved with the community and the neighbors although it has taken some effort. Many people in our neck of the woods have lived here all their life and established their own circle of friends. We newbies cannot just force ourselves into their good graces – it takes time.

We started out meeting the neighbors closest to our home. Since we live on a small hill, those up and down the street often walk by to get a bit of exercise in the morning or evening. When we see a face we don’t recognize we shout out a hello and find out if they live on our street. So far we have not scared anyone off. All are friendly and typically as curious as we to meet their neighbors. We have a wonderful family living on one side with great kids and a cool dog. On the other is a lovely retired couple with lots of travel stories to share and they are introducing us­­ to bird watching. I can say over the past months here we have become acquainted with more neighbors than we met over multiple years back in the Bay Area. People just seem more relaxed, open and willing to engage in our new locale.

We also lucked out in that a couple we knew while working has a home about two miles from us. (Actually we knew the husband from the company where we first met. The executives there still say our relationship was the best thing that came out of that place!) My wife and I agree that could we have picked any one couple we would have liked to spend time with it would be these two. And we had no idea they were neighbors until we recently crossed paths. Can you say lucky?

For someone who is typically happy doing his own thing I am discovering how much I enjoy having others to socialize with. While I don’t miss the job despite numerous wonderful co-workers it is nice to have others to talk with and enjoy the wonderful world we lucky retirees are blessed with. Whether sharing a favorite hiking trail or best local vintner, hosting a summer dinner or attending a local event, playing dominos or just meeting up at the local farmers market, we really appreciate the friends who are part of our life in retirement. As Yeats said, “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t met.” I wonder who we will meet next?