What is your ‘Retirement Personality Type’?

Don’t you just love on-line personality quizzes? You know, the ones where you answer a few innocuous-seeming multiple-choice questions—press enter—and voila—you are assigned a set-in-stone personality type (that may or may not remotely resemble the you that you know). The retirement versions of these quizzes claim to be able to determine your ‘retirement personality type’, ‘retirement happy place’ and ‘retirement investment type’. I just took two of these on-line tests, as honestly as I could, and discovered that my retirement happy place is Boulder, CO (someplace that I’ve never been) because I am (apparently) “a cross between Georgia O’Keeffe with Henry David Thoreau…. an artsy-creative soul who understands the value of alone time and the freedom of the American West”. (Insert dramatic eye roll here!) Survey 1

I also discovered that I am “a seeker” apparently because “friends describe (me) as reserved, thoughtful, and as having a rich intellectual inner world.” Survey 2 (Feel free to replace these descriptions with adjectives of your own…but remember…I control the comment key!)

During our recent three-week road trip, we had the chance to visit with many great friends and family, all of whom are retired. Since I knew many of these people long before they left their jobs, it was interesting to see similarities and differences in their pre-retirement and post-work personalities. One of these friends, who now spends as much time dancing as she can, shared that other than at the occasional wedding, prior to retirement she had last danced when she was a teen. This past summer she danced at her High School Reunion and thought to herself, “why haven’t I been dancing all along. I LOVE this!” She immediately signed up for jive lessons, and has continued with a variety of dance lessons/local dances ever since. For me, it was creative writing. I did stacks of academic writing during my career (Language Policy anyone?) but it wasn’t really until retirement that I started creative writing again and discovered (thirty-five years later) how deeply I missed it.

This got me thinking about how our personalities can transform themselves in retirement – and what control we have over this (barring unpreventable circumstances). Retirement is the perfect time to refine, reinvent and let the real you come out and play. You no longer need to act a certain way because it is expected of your profession, or to do something (or not do something) just because you always did. It is a perfect time to break old habits, try new things and rekindle old passions!

A post from Starts At Sixty has been making its way around the Internet recently. You may have seen it.

Seenager

I am a Seenager (Senior Teenager)

I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 50 years later.

I don’t have to go to school or work.

I get an allowance every month.

I have my own place.

I don’t have a curfew.

I have a driver’s license and my own car. The people that I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant, and they do not use drugs, and they do not have acne. Life is great!

Okay, so maybe our skin may not be clear and smooth, not all of us should be driving cars, and many of us have a whole new version of medicinal drugs…but you get the point. There is no time to wait to be the you that you always wanted to be. What are you waiting for?

Packing Checklists, Kettle Grills…and Our Big Road Trip!

I LOVE packing checklists – the planning, the organizing, the reassurance – and especially the checklist part. (Geek! Yes, I’m aware.) For our current road trip, we wanted to pack enough to be comfortable, but not so much that we felt weighed down. We would likely be driving for eight days in total and would be gone for three or four weeks. We were not yet sure where we would be staying along the way–motel? camping? car? — but we wanted to be open to a variety of different roadside opportunities. Adding to our dilemma, our apartment in Las Vegas, where we would be staying for eight nights, only contained basic furniture and appliances and nothing else. Richard definitely wanted to golf, and I wanted to continue to workout and practice yoga. Already the image of necessary pillows blankets sleeping bags, portable tent, towels, golf clubs, yoga mat, clothes, toiletries, cooler, and basic food supplies was growing completely out of control.

We could not be the first ones ever to take such a trip, so… we consulted the Internet for expert advice. For a two-week-plus (car-camping-style) road trip, some sites suggested that we include a kettle grill, high heels, and a pocket dictionary. Nope, I’m not kidding! (Sources) In order to travel a bit lighter, other sites suggested that we leave behind aspirin, nail polish remover, extra razors and extra reading material. Now, I’m sure that these sites were less camping-based and went with the rationale that you could easily buy these things along the way. However, the authors obviously have not seen me without reading material or with a pounding headache and no convenience store or pharmacy in sight (not to mention that needing to buy too many extra items, with the current US-Canadian dollar exchange rate, would undoubtedly make me need those aspirins). The absolute irony here is kettle grill vs. a bottle of aspirin…words simply fail me!

Other sites, more realistic about the size of the average car or SUV, suggested that we avoid the need for a grill and consider cooking our food on our car engine, or baking cookies on the dashboard. (Again, I’m not making this up.) The Internet even has loads of directions on how to do both things. (Examples: here and here.)

As Richard and I both have definite limits to our sense of adventure, we left the kettle grill behind and opted against using our car as a cooking device. When we finished packing the necessities listed above, and then added our dog, dog food, feeding bowls, grooming stuff, pet blanket, etc., etc. (so that we could drop off Cody in Vancouver on our way) we would not have wanted to squeeze in one extra item. Without exaggeration, we have seen whole families move abroad with less.

After surviving full two weeks on the road, it is time to reflect, and write this blog. What would we definitely take on our next big road trip? What would we leave behind?

We never regretted our decision not to bring a kettle grill and I never once had the desire to wear high heels or to study a pocket dictionary (although I did use my on-line thesaurus more than once). We did definitely use our extra reading material, razors and aspirin (as well as vitamin C and cold medicine). I haven’t yet used the nail polish remover…but there’s still time.

As I predominantly had the role of passenger, navigator, meal arranger and organizer, I found it invaluable to have my smartphone, laptop and phone charger (that plugs into the car cigarette lighter) within handy reach. Our smartphone not only served as a multi-faceted communication device, but it also served as our GPS, accommodation locator, fact finder, mirror, flashlight, extra music source, extra reading material…and emergency gas station finder (please don’t ask!). Also, did you know that with your smartphone you can start your car remotely, measure your heart rate, identify a song on the radio and mail a postcard? As a bonus, I also used my smartphone as a hotspot so that I could grab my computer and stay ahead on my blog posts. (NB, check your data plan first and adjust your usage accordingly to avoid extra data fees.) I also used my smartphone to snap the following “car windshield photography”.

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The other item that was a lifesaver for us was an extra large, good quality thermos (that stayed hot and fit perfectly in our car cup holder). As we traveled many LONG stretches of road with surprisingly no Starbucks (or coffee shop of any kind) in sight, the stay-hot-all-day thermos of coffee was well worth the small space that it required. Each morning, we took the time to re-shuffle our vehicle so that the cooler (with ice packs as opposed to melting ice cubes) and snack bag were within easy reach of the passenger (who doubled as host and server). Wet Ones (lots of them) and grocery store sized plastic bags for recycling/trash also made the trip easier.

Other than the nail polish remover, we have actually used most of the items that we brought with us (we did a final culling just before we pulled out from home). For our next big road trip, we will add a roof-rack storage unit in order to help ease in-vehicle congestion. A roof rack will also be essential for when we have our dog join us for a longer portion of the trip. (Note to PETA: our dog will be in the car, not on the rack!)

Ultimately, my best advice goes back to the packing checklist itself. If you have never used one, definitely consider it for your next trip. If you prepare and store it on your computer, you won’t need to worry about losing the printed copy and you can use/modify it again and again for future trips. Sample templates to get your started can be found here and here .

A good packing checklist just may revolutionize your whole approach to packing, save you frustration and cash for forgotten items along the way, and help make your entire trip go much more smoothly. Go ahead, you don’t have to be a Geek to try it (although it definitely won’t hurt if you are).

Have you taken a big road trip recently and have advice to add? I’d appreciate hearing your feedback and suggestions.

Learning to be Canadian Again

Since I have recently posted a ‘love letter’ for my husband on this blog, in honour of February 14, this ‘valentine’ (of sorts) deals with the love and appreciation of country.

I am no longer confident in my Canadian spellings. Is it analyse or analyze, amoeba or ameba (please don’t ask why I was trying to use that word)? Is focussed the Canadian version of focused…. or is it simply a less-used alternative…. or did I make it up entirely? Living overseas, I began to stray from Canadian spellings and I had plenty of excuses to cover for me. Now that I am back home, I really should spell (consistently) like a Canadian, shouldn’t I? With a sweet little invention called spell-checker this should be no problem, except that if there is a Canadian spell-checker on my Gmail account, I honestly cannot find it. Being a girl-scout-problem-solver, I decided to go with the next best thing and select “British English” as my Gmail default language (which seemed like a great idea until I spent a full hour looking for my trash…. which had magically been transformed into a bin)!

My sometimes mixed-up spellings are not the only telltale sign of my life abroad. At the airport, I attempted to enter into a crowded elevator that easily could have squeezed three (or four) more people inside. “Excuse me honey, can’t you see that this elevator is full?” said one apologetically sounding woman in the back. Ah, the Canadian complacency with space. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Asia anymore!

I love being reunited with Canadian comfort food. Maple syrup, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, zucchini bread, Timbits with my double-double and Holy Crap cereal…how I’ve missed you. While admittedly not a fan of poutine quite yet, I will keep on trying.

I do not like to spend much time talking politics, or religion or getting into “my dog is bigger than your dog” conversations. Suffice it to say, watching the world news (on most days) makes me feel even more grateful to be Canadian than I already am. What makes me love my country? It’s a long list, but here are a few highlights. Personally, to me, Canada means: Family, loved ones, heritage, memories, home and comfort. On a larger scale, I am immensely proud of Canada’s diversity, friendly (and overly polite) people, wilderness, open spaces, clean air, amazing landscapes, safety, our value on education, our stance on gun control, our abundance of natural resources…and having a hip and modern Prime Minister. And, according to a recent worldwide study by the Legatum Prosperity Index 2015, Canada ranks number one worldwide for personal freedom of its citizens (http://prosperity.com/#!/ranking). If that alone does not convince you, we even have small towns that, on a major snow day, close a section of their main highways to allow their children to go sledding. How cool is that?

Yes, there are downsides to life back in Canada. Housing costs, especially in Vancouver and Toronto (seriously!), not enough family doctors to go around, traffic can be unpredictable (my husband actually preferred driving in Beijing because the drivers there were more defensive… and the faint of heart were not behind the wheel), and the value of our dollar has lost substantial value against the US dollar, and some other currencies. But compared to the pros, it’s hard to complain about life back in Canada.

If you are Canadian, what have I missed? If you’re not, what makes you most proud of your country? Always looking for different points of view, and new places to explore, I’m interested in hearing your commentsbut remember, it is Valentine’s Day!

On Leaving Fido

 

So, you know the carefree, happy-go-lucky, come-and-go-as-you-please image that the word ‘retirement’ often conjures up? Enter Fido (or Spot, or Fluffy…or in this case, Cody) and that rose-coloured vision is instantly smashed to bits!

Living in the land of retirees, we are completely surrounded by snowbirds, and other vacationers, heading off to California, Arizona, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama, and other cheerful, sunny destinations, seemingly at whim. Trying to fit in, and be ‘good retirees’ we started dreaming of our own trip. Perhaps a leisurely drive to Nevada, followed by a rendezvous or two with friends in California, then with family in Arizona. We could take our time, try out some of our new camping gear along the way, and come back when we pleased.

Wait! What were we thinking?? Temporary insanity must have made us  forget that we had a dog–a very large one! Now, before you begin rhyming off some simple solutions, here are some of the hurdles:

Hurdle #1: Cody has never stayed in a kennel before. His only experience being in a crate was his eleven-hour flight from Beijing to Vancouver…and it took him literally weeks (and a couple of vet visits) to recover. Did we really want to put him anywhere near a crate, or even a small penned in area, again?

Hurdle # 2: Being new to Vancouver Island, we do not know anyone close by well enough, at least not anyone who is not already away themselves, for such a big imposition.

Hurdle #3: Have I mentioned that Cody is a Siberian husky and a cat-hater? Actually, he thinks he quite likes cats…with salt and pepper perhaps! Cody is a hunter (and we have many long stories as to why we know this). Suffice it to say that it is best to keep him away from anything feline. Strike off all potential caregivers who have cats.

Hurdle #4: As for immediate family members (i.e. our four grown sons): one has a new baby (and dog allergies), one owns cats, one lives in England, and when I suggested our remaining son, my husband was quick to remind me that this son and his girlfriend worked long hours and lived in a small apartment so Cody would be alone for a very long time each day.

Hurdle #5: My husband has heard horror stories about dogs being held at border crossings and not being allowed to return home. And did I mention that we were driving to the desert…a very long drive to the desert?

Reviewing our list, we have now struck off kennels, neigbours, friends, family, anyone with cats and bringing Cody with us. What was left?

We went through many (many) stages in our decision-making. At first, we believed that we would hire a local caregiver to come into our home. We even met a really nice lady willing to do this. But then when we slept on it–three whole weeks seemed way too long to have a stranger in our home (regardless of how kindly she seemed). Wouldn’t it be better to trial this on a much shorter trip?

We then decided that we would modify our trip slightly. Our original vision of driving blissfully into the sunshine, golf clubs in tow, sadly morphed into one-week away via a budget airline–sans golf clubs (and sans check-in luggage of any kind). We were sure that we could trial a local (albeit, unfamiliar) live-in pet-sitter for a week. But then the rumour mill struck again.  Other (quite random) pet-owners shared some of their worst experiences.  Some even suggested that a pet-sitter would probably be fine for us…. but that they would never leave their dog with anyone but family. Insert guilt and separations anxiety here…and strike off local pet-sitter.

Next we did what we usually do when we cannot solve a problem on our own. We called in the experts! Fortunately, my walking group is made up not only of people who like a good hike, but they are also experienced pet owners and extreme dog lovers. I laid out the problems and challenges and then listened to their experiences and expert advice. “Take Cody with you”, they unanimously declared. They each had gone back and forth across the Canada/US border several times with their dogs happily by their sides. One of them even goes to an annual Golden Retriever picnic in Portland, Oregon!

Right then and there we decided to take Cody with us. We had already pictured him–car top down and his brightly coloured ascot billowing in the breeze (well actually, we don’t have a convertible, and Cody does not have an ascot…but you have to admit, it struck a nice image)!

Then the reality of driving three days there and three days back, with a large dog, set in. We really did want this to be a carefree adventure, for us…. and for Cody too. Nothing about a very long, hot drive with a dog spelled c-a-r-e-f-r-e-e…absolutely nothing!

So, weeks later, with countless hours spent worrying, planning, revising our plans, and planning some more…here we are packed and ready to make the drive. The car’s air conditioning has been double checked, and our passports, medical cards, and updated vaccination booklets are in our bags. Cody is sitting smugly in the back seat looking very pleased…. he is not going to Vegas but to Uncle Shaun’s (the son who we had not wanted to impose upon due to his long work hours and small space). When we finally broached the topic with Shaun, he and his girlfriend were thrilled to take Cody and had solutions to all of the barriers which had prevented us from asking them in the first place. They also reminded us of their fenced- in patio that Cody loves. Shaun immediately posted Cody’s photo on his Facebook page and instantly got offers from all around Vancouver (and even the Okanagan) to have Cody over for a play date! Also, at the last minute, we had friends (with dog allergies) ask to stay in our home while we were away, as they were in the process of moving. Dog and home were now accounted for!

Moral of the story: Don’t overlook the obvious, don’t be afraid to ask…. and pet-owner guilt can be a very powerful thing!

In a future post, I will let you know how the travels, both for us, and for Cody, turned out!

Retirement Guilt: The Art of Not ‘Shoulding’ Upon Yourself

My husband and I took a mid-week, overnight trip, about a two-hour drive away from our home. It was a last minute decision to explore another part of Vancouver Island. We had a great two days away and really enjoyed ourselves. During the drive home, my husband mentioned that he just couldn’t shake the feeling of guilt in being able to simply drive off into the sunshine…on a weekday. He felt there was something else that he should be doing (reality check: there really wasn’t).

Good old guilt! It can become so ingrained in us that it continues to whisper “you should, you should, you should” or “you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t” even when those messages are not pertinent.

I began to think about guilt and how it has manifested itself in my own life over different periods of time. What is “retirement guilt” and just how big of a phenomenon is it? I Googled the words and found pages and pages (and pages) of entries. This potential aspect of retirement was definitely not mentioned in the glossy Freedom 55 brochures!

Guilt can be defined simply as: “A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime or wrongdoing, …whether real or imagined” (http://dictionary.reference.com) Or as one definition, offered by the Urban Dictionary states, “An unfortunate side effect that results from being overly exposed to morality” (http://www.urbandictionary.com)…definitely an interesting point of view!

With real or imagined wrongdoings ranging from: shirking responsibilities, not doing something meaningful, leaving the workforce too early, not earning a paycheque, spending too much money, not measuring up, missing something, saying ‘no’ (when others believe you now have all of the time in the world to say ‘yes’)…a retiree could totally drive him/herself insane.

But is guilt also a gift? In the right dosages, does it help propel us forward, get unsexy tasks done, reflect more deeply, get off of the couch and be better people? Without guilt would our houses be messier, our emails unanswered, our chequebooks unbalanced, our dogs all have much shorter walks and would we simply eat all of the Boston Cream donuts that we desire?

Being no stranger to guilt (I’m Catholic), I am surprised that I haven’t yet been overcome by guilt since retiring (really, it’s so unlike me). Perhaps it is my retirement honeymoon phase, and a tsunami wave of guilt is lurking around the corner waiting to catch me unaware.

I believe, at least partly, that yoga has been a contributing factor to easing initial retirement guilt for me. I can hear the many mantras of my yoga teachers now:

  • Practice mindfulness
  • Put yourself in the present moment
  • Leave the past behind
  • Practice non-judgment
  • …And….don’t forget to breathe!

Certainly, there are more detailed, complex strategies in which to deal with guilt, but the above seems like a good start and not a bad list to live by.

Thinking back to Richard at the steering wheel, I wonder if the guilt that he was feeling, wasn’t actually gratitude. As retirement is a privilege denied to so many, humbly accepting the gift of retirement can be surprisingly overwhelming.

It is the above mindset of turning guilt into gratitude that was my biggest take-away in reading through the pages of Google entries on retirement guilt. Other frequently mentioned suggestions (all heavily paraphrased or ad-libbed below) include:

  • Acknowledge your shoulds–check them against reality–then let them pass
  • Know your fears and deal with them head-on (e.g. if money is a big fear zone, set and regularly review a realistic budget, track expenses and make adjustments where necessary)
  • Take stalk of what you can control and what you can’t
  • Readjust your expectations
  • Practice forgiveness (of yourself and others)
  • Make amends (again with yourself and others)…and move on!

Got guilt? What are your strategies for letting go?