In the time leading up to my retirement, if I had been given a dollar every time someone expressed disbelief that I would actually be content not working, I could have retired much earlier.
“But WHAT will you do?” and “Aren’t you afraid of being bored?” were common questions.
Focussed, organized, passionate and diligent, the words “relaxed” or “laid-back” were seldom used to describe me. Early on, I had begun to read much retirement research and had other research quoted to me. In short, it wasn’t good. With everything from failing health (due to the sudden decrease in activity and pace) to struggling marriages (due to the dramatically increased togetherness…and misplaced bossiness) it appeared the more driven one was in their work-life, the more dismal the predicted retirement outcome. I eventually gave myself a break from reading the research, stood with my husband on the retirement bridge and we leapt.
So far, on the other side of the bridge, the same “A-Type” features of my personality have actually become my savoir. Being cognizant of the research that I had read, I knew enough not to slow down abruptly. So I did in my retirement life what I did in my work life – I immersed myself. Housing, and then house set up took on a life on its own and included numerous intricate details which proved to be a fantastic transition from the world of work. I then did what every sixth grader who first starts Middle School knows to do, I got a copy of the activities sign-up book and I joined, and joined, and joined! Not all of the activities stuck (e.g. cake decorating…. I was a disaster)! But through the good and the bad, I was involved, present, met great people and continued learning about myself. And some of the activities did stick. I recently attended my 60th yoga class after joining only three months ago. Yoga has provided multiple benefits – physical fitness, mental relaxation, and meeting really cool and interesting people. As there are a variety of different classes nearby and a pay-one-price monthly pass, there is no excuse for me not to attend.
My husband recently commented on how at ease I seemed in retirement, and how well I have adapted. He has found his retirement transition to be a bit less seamless. Although he is happy to be retired, he misses the excitement of an international legal practice, the camaraderie with his colleagues and the daily challenges and responsibilities that his work provided. We both greatly enjoyed our jobs, appreciated our colleagues and, to a large extent, defined ourselves through our work.
What helps some people transition more smoothly into retirement than others? It is likely a myriad of factors, perspective playing a significant role. For me, I have felt a similar awe and wonder to my initial retirement as I did when I first began working internationally, and the first time that I stood in front my own classroom, 35 years ago, and began to teach. Viewing retirement as an exit or as an entry, as a new chapter, or a separate book closed, underscores everything else that follows.
With the combination of this perspective, and my driven personality, I have fully immersed myself into my retirement. I continue to wake up early with a burning sense of purpose – there are meals to be made, daily routines to address, yoga classes to dash off to, emails to answer, company to prepare for, reading that I want to do, blog posts to write, trips to plan, children and grandchildren to visit, new passions to explore… the list never runs dry – and it changes regularly. Yes the tasks are different from when I worked – which helps to makes even the mundane new and exciting. Also, after many years living overseas, I am immensely grateful to have regular, uninterrupted time with family, friends and self.
Although I am relatively new to retirement, I haven’t grown a third limb…at least not yet! My biggest take away from all of this? There is definitely cause for hope and optimism for driven personalities in retirement. Be true to yourself and play to your strengths. Go forth with a healthy mixture of pre-planning, openness and wonder. Talk to others about their retirement but know that the retirement experience cannot be forced and no two retirement experiences are the same. And on the flipside, don’t believe everything that everyone tells you. Your footprints into retirement will be unique to you–be thoughtful in preparing to shape what they will look like.