Maybe all my pre-retirement worry and anxiety and tears were exactly what made my first year of retirement go smoothly.
But I also know that thinking is key. Remember my retirement blog posts from December 2021? Our thinking affects our emotions which affects how we choose to act. I suspect that retirement ‘success’ (as with anything in life) depends a lot on how we interpret our circumstances.
Stepping away from ‘work’ provides perspective about your career and about the workplace itself and about what it all meant (or did not mean) for you and about your new 'job' in life.
Here are some of my 'take-aways':
1) To have had a career you enjoy so much that you never work another day in your life, as they say, is a gift. And, at the end, to be one of the fortunate ones in society to receive a monthly pension is beyond gratefulness.
2) But you were only one person in a particular position at a given time. As an old co-worker used to say, he was simply “renting” his position for a few decades and then someone else would take over. You had your time, and it is now someone else’s opportunity to put their stamp on the workplace. You were the right person for your time. But, wait, the good news! That was just for work. Now is your time, once again, to forge something completely different - for yourself.
3) And work in human services is hard and stressful. Any work with the disadvantaged or the mentally ill or the addicted can be taxing. This is simply reality and not a slight on anyone. This can weigh on an employee over decades. You might have been more ready to leave than you thought. And every workplace has it's strengths and weaknesses. Taking a long step back gives you a more discerning eye towards what you actually did in the 'job' - those strengths and shortcomings.
4) ‘Work’ relationships are simply that - work relationships. At the workplace, you spend a lot of time with a set group of people, working and chatting and socializing, but this is a fabricated scenario. The group was held together by ‘work’ knowledge and by work issues (many of which later seem small and trivial) and by work inside-jokes and not necessarily by shared values and interests. (You will, however, keep ‘tight’ with a few who you would be friends with even if you had met outside the workplace.)
5) When work no longer fills your needs, it's time to make a change. Life should be about personal development, creativity, physical activity, adventure, and socialization. As you age, time starts to run out. Retirement is the opportunity to be fully engaged, to be challenged, and to feel accomplishment - on your own terms.
6) Time is flying by so fast. Freedom to do what you want, when you want, is invigorating.
These reflections all lead to a whole new focus in life, contentment, and more clarity about who you are or are not and what is important, at this time of life, as the trips around the sun lessen every year.
So many of the old adages play out: You are not as important as you think. You are replaceable. The time to be happy is now. We can’t worry about the past or the future, all we have is the present. You are much more than what you did for a living. People will like you for who you are, not what you did for a career. Be nice to everyone. Get the most out of every day, but every day doesn’t have to be perfect or great. Cherish the small things. Honour the moment – the smells, the sounds, the tastes. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s mostly all small stuff. Try new things - make yourself scared in a good way. Live for experiences. You don’t have to prove yourself. You can talk yourself into and out of anything. Build relationships. Make time for your dreams - housekeeping can wait until tomorrow. You are exactly where you should be. The list goes on. Reach way up, pick the apple off the tree, feel the cold morning air on your skin and wet dew on your feet, smell autumn fermenting, hear the crunch of the bite, taste the sweetness of ice cold natural apple 'cider' right off the tree.
You no longer think the same way once you exit work life. You see your career differently, and you see your current role in life differently.
And, remember, new thinking leads to new behaviours. Exercise, cook good food, socialize, read smart things, read for pleasure, ride a bike, reconnect with old friends, go for walks, kayak, play, bake cookies for special kids, swim, learn a new language, pet the neighbourhood dogs, visit friends and family, plan trips, travel, plan trips that you will never take, practice yoga, help neighbours, take up a new hobby, volunteer, read the news from start to finish, pick a city in the world and research it, bake for neighbours, take some pictures, pull some weeds, learn about other countries and their strengths and problems, try out a new food truck, write a blog (even if no one reads it) - it's all in your new job description.
What were (or are) you thinking during your first year of retirement? Or, if you are still in the planning stage, maybe this will give you some food for thought as you start your retirement journey.
Year two of my retirement is approaching. If the going gets tough, I will remind myself that thinking is everything.
(illustrations are from Wix, photos are my own)