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, 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?

Discover Your Independence In Retirement

Before we were retired my wife and I outsourced a decent portion of our maintenance and upkeep needs around the house. With both of us working we did not have the time or the inclination to dedicate those precious few hours of freedom the weekend afforded to pursuits other than leisure. We had a gardener who took care of everything from lawn mowing to plant pruning to all around fertilizing. A team came once a month to do deep cleaning and dusting around the home. And if anything went wrong with an appliance or we encountered other home issues, we promptly called a repairman to come to our rescue. My philosophy was always leaving it to the experts although we were occasionally shocked by what seemed lofty fees for service rendered.

These days things are different. I have time to do more than I did while I was employed – a lot more. Rather than give in to the knee jerk response to call someone to bail us out, I am learning to explore what I might be able to do to remedy the situation. I have come to realize if you are not sure how to fix something Google can often light the way. Best of all I am discovering a previously unknown curiosity about the inner workings of things manmade as well as those in nature’s realm.

Did you ever watch the show MacGyver? The times I tuned in I was always impressed and sometimes amazed when he made something out of nothing to save the day. My concoctions may not be so lifesaving but it still feels good to combine miscellaneous odds and ends you find around the house into a fix for some problem.

Had the pre-retirement me noticed curling leaves on a rose plant my first reaction would have been to call the gardener and trust him to make it better. These days I am the gardener. If there is a problem it is up to me to solve it. I am learning the basics of fertilizing for our numerous rose bushes as well as how to deal with the omnipresent gophers that feast on any plant not protected by a wire mesh tightly wrapped around its roots. I am now able to maintain as well as modify the drip irrigation system that frugally waters the vegetation. We are even going to try our luck at growing a few vegetables from seeds. If all goes well our salads will soon include fresh off the vine heirloom tomatoes grown from seeds – how cool is that!

Although I grew up in high tech I have never really been the guy who got all the pieces to work happily together. There was always an IT guy or I enlisted the aid of a knowledgeable son or daughter to handle the details. Since there are no longer IT guys in our life and we now live at least an hour from our nearest child it is time to start doing more myself. I upgraded my iPhone yesterday, something I dreaded. Prior experience has shown nothing seems to migrate painlessly from the old to the new. True to form I lost a bunch of my contacts, the songs I had loaded from CDs were nowhere to be found, and I lost my Back in Black ringtone. Never fear said the new Dave. I Googled how to do various transfers and got the contacts (most of them) where I need them. AC/DC is back alerting me to incoming calls. And although I never figured out how to automatically transfer the songs I still got it done the old fashion way by reloading CDs onto my laptop. That wonderful feeling of satisfaction when my phone was just as I wanted it was worth the effort. And I did it all myself.

Taking on more responsibility to keep things running smoothly on the home front gives me a sense of accomplishment and independence. Instead of waiting in dread fearing the next predicament I find myself happy to take a shot at fixing whatever might come along. I accept I have limitations and as a rule leave anything to do with electricity to the experts. And if I cannot figure out a reasonable solution, I dig up the number of the local repair person. But first I step to the plate and take a swing or two.

In retirement we have the luxury of free time. Taking on little things like home repairs can offer a level of control in a world where we seem to have less and less influence. I may not be able to run those miles like I used to but I can sure figure out what it takes to have a magazine cover worthy garden. I may not be quite as quick when it comes to understanding the latest tech gizmo but I have faith I can remedy that squeaking door. I cannot do it all and honestly I don’t want to. But I can take a shot at fixing problems as they arise, give it my best MacGyver and maybe get it done. And when I get it done I have another line item to add to my growing retirement resume.