Second Wind Leisure Perspectives: Some Days in the Life of an Almost-Retired Person

What do retired people do all day? What exactly is “retired” anyway?

Better yet, what should retired people do all day? Are you retired and living the “life?” Have you retired and are feeling financial pressure and lack of motivation to do things? Or are you newly retired and still playing catch-up with your new identity?

Identity Crisis?

That’s the thing, this new identity. No longer are you associated with your workplace or professional identity. Going from “Manager of 30 People for 35 Years” to “nothing” can be hard on the ego, especially for men.

Women seem to understand this idea of identity a little better. As women, we seem to embrace the variety of roles in our lives: mother, daughter, mentor, employee, homeowner, writer, jogger, etc.

Men seem to have fewer roles, with family breadwinner being the highest and most important role and identity. For many men, although the idea of retirement sounds delightful, in reality, those men absolutely fear this disassociation from work, a place they likely spent 30-40 years of their lives.

In our society, when meeting people for the first time, we intuitively ask the (socially constructed) question, “What do you do?” (read, what do you do for your work?). We answer, “I’m a teacher, or I’m a Forest Ranger,” etc.

Once we have retired, when asked this same question, many answer “I’m retired…. I used to be ….. or work for….” You get the drift.

How Do You Do?

To change this dynamic, I challenge anyone, not just retired folks, to answer this question regarding your leisure interests or hobbies. When someone asks, “What do you do?” You can answer “I’m a windsurfer, or I’m a blogger, or I’m a world traveler.” Exciting, huh?

I challenge my college students to this exercise when we get into the chapter about Work. It really opens their eyes, and we get into great discussions about the difficulty they felt trying to identify with a leisure pastime.

Wouldn’t you rather be identified by the things for which you have the most passion? If your work is your passion, then wonderful…you are lucky and fortunate. Most of us, however, are passionate about non-work pastimes.

Workaholic 101

Baby Boomers, both men and women, were raised to accept work culture as a priority and essentially invented workaholism. Those folks retiring now are having a tough time accepting it. As an example, I remember my former boss and his wife delaying their retirement for several years. She had health problems, but she felt indispensable at her job. He worked constantly and I valued his availability when I needed to solve a problem, but they fed into each other’s mantra of the “I’ll retire when YOU retire” merry-go-round.

They finally retired and are living their best lives. He was a recreation and parks practitioner and although he may not have practiced what he preached at work, he put those leisure planning skills to good use one he did retire!

Career Planning 101

That 16th century Puritan Work Ethic loves to rear its slightly-ugly head even now in the 21st century. Work was (is?) how we earn our place in life, home and Heaven.

After all, we spend the first 15 years of our lives getting ready for a career. In grade school, we were often asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” An astronaut, a bus-driver? A school-teacher? Etc.

By middle school, we took classes to prepare for high school success, and once in high school decided on our future curriculum for college or vocational school. Four to six years later? We landed our dream job and went to work for the next 30-40 years.

If we are fortunate, we expect to retire from this career-focused life by age 65-70, which seems to be getting later if social security is any indication.

No wonder our identities are in crisis!

So What DO You Do?

As a person who retired in 2014 from a 35-year career in public parks and recreation (never got as high on the food chain as Leslie Knope), I was ready to leave. But since I also teach as a part-time university lecturer in the parks and recreation major, continuing to teach two to three classes per semester is not really “retired.”

(ARE you ready GIF)


But I sure love my Januarys and summers off!

What does a semi-retired person do all day? I can only share my example. I still can’t help but quantify my day and schedule my activities.


Every day of the week, I exercise, whether it’s self-directed cardio or participating in a class at the gym, walking the dogs, or engaging in a water sport.


During the Fall and Spring semesters, I am on campus for a few hours, two to three days a week. Mostly I work from my home office in my glorious master bedroom addition.

A teacher’s work is never done. I spend time in the summer preparing course and classroom content for the coming Fall semester. My department has asked that I begin teaching a new (to me) class, so I must start the process of preparing the curriculum for that. With three Fall classes looming, I spend three to four hours per week all summer prepping and even answering a few e-mails. This is definitely a passion I can sustain for ten more years!

Writing and Blogging

Writing a blog has opened several writing opportunities. I do some freelance writing for my brother-in-law’s fashion accessories business. I am writing this guest post, among others. I wrote and self-published my first eBook, Better Blogging with Photography last July 2016, and am writing furiously on my next book No Excuses Fitness. I only have a few short weeks before I begin teaching again, so the bulk of the writing has GOT to GET done—no excuses!

Leisure Where Art Thou?

I have to admit, that I enjoy playing a game or two on my tablet, or turning on the TV to check the news and weather. Most of my early mornings are spent in this fashion with my coffee. By 8 am I eat breakfast then head out the door for whatever exercise regimen I have planned. Hubby gets home from work by 3:30 pm, so I try to have the bulk of my “work” done by then. Frequently though, I’m still plugging away on the next day’s blog post or prepping the image for it, when he walks into the bedroom ready to chat.

During summer weekends, I am on my husband’s work schedule. He works Tuesday through Saturday with Sundays and Mondays off until Labor Day weekend. By early Saturday afternoon, I have the ice chest packed and everything else ready for the weekend at the Delta. Link Windsurfing is my hubby’s passion. I enjoy it too, but being good at it helps…I’m OK, but get bruised and beaten up.I always look forward to the non-windy days when I can stand-up paddle!

As Boomers redefined work, so have they redefined retirement.

Apparently semi-retired people ramble. Sorry. I earned it though, right? So did you, if you are retired. What floats your boat? Or what color is your parachute? Or….I know there is another cliché somewhere!

Terri: Second Wind Leisure
Second Wind Leisure Perspectives

Images used by permission from Unsplash.

From Retirement Reflections – Thank you to Terry for her great questions and very thought-provoking post. I will have the pleasure of meeting up with Terri, and a couple of other bloggers, shortly. I can’t wait! And, boy, do I ever have a pile of questions for them!! Up next week, all the way from her daughter’s wedding in Fiji, is Debbie from Deb’s World. Her direct quote about this guest post running the same weekend as this big event was: “I look forward to responding to all the hundreds of comments from beside the pool.” Please join us next week and help fulfill that wish. See you then!

75 Replies to “Second Wind Leisure Perspectives: Some Days in the Life of an Almost-Retired Person”

    1. Somehow I can never (ever) see you lying on the couch eating chips, Leanne. The visual made me laugh out loud! Thank you for the morning chuckle.

  1. I think Terri may have been my first ‘blogging friend’. She’s been inspiring me ever since with her boundless energy and talent. Terri is spot on in this article and never fails to illustrate that retirement is simply re’creation’.

      1. Thanks, Terri. Lisa has agreed to write a post for this series so you should be reading that in early November on this site. I’m looking forward to it too!

    1. Hi, Lisa – I agree with Terri and the others who commented that you totally ‘nailed this’. Retirement truly is ‘re-creation’. When viewed that way, our horizon of possibilities immediately expands. Thanks so much for sharing here.

    1. Hi, Terri – Thank YOU! I greatly appreciate you Guest Hosting. I am enjoying seeing our mutual friends here, and meeting new friends who followed you over here!

  2. I love the idea of leading with your passion!! But it’s true, we are so focused on “what we do”. I think I’m going to change how I even ask that question now. Maybe ask, “what’s your passion, or what fills your days?”
    Love reading your ramblings, Terri!!

    1. Hi, Jodie – Thank you so much for stopping by to read Terri’s blog. I agree that changing the way that we ask the “What do you do?” question is very refreshing and makes much sense. I’m off to check out your blog now.

  3. Hi Terri, you bring to light many questions here. I am uncomfortable with the word “retire.” I am not sure I will ever fully retire. Work is just part of what I am and what I do. Semiretired is a better term. I struggle when people ask me what I do since I now do many things and people often don’t understand the on line world. I do think many of us are redefining what retirement looks like. There are no gold watches and twenty years of sitting home doing nothing for us!

  4. Hi Terri! Thank you for illustrating how retirement isn’t just one thing. In fact, “I’m retired” is just as one dimensional as answering the “what do you do?” question with what one does for work. Maybe we should stop ourselves from asking that question in the first place and start saying “tell me something about yourself” or ask, “what do you do for fun?”
    Janis recently posted…Rightsizing in Place Using S.P.O.T. GoalsMy Profile

    1. Hi, Janis – One of the first posts that I read on how to answer “What do you do (in retirement)?” was yours . ( When I was recently in Spain, I listened for the word ‘jucilacion’ (and found it many places). That is such a great word to describe retirement. It focuses on the positives and the passions. I love posts like Terry’s and yours (and many others) that remind us to focus on our passions….or passion-ettes!

    2. Hi Janis! “What do you do for fun” is a question I now ask people…at first they look slightly started, then they smile and tell me all about it! My students really get into it but they’ve admitted time and again that it’s hard to answer at first. We can all use a new mind shift in this direction!

  5. Hi Terri! It certainly sounds as though you know exactly what to do as you retire although clearly, you aren’t all there yet! You are doing it much the way I hope to…never really retired, more like semi-retired by staying active doing things you love. As you know, I call that “rightsized!!!” And congrats on being asked to do another class at your college. I’m looking forward to reading all about it on your blog. ~Kathy

    1. Thanks, Kathy – Looks like we will have lots of ‘food for discussion’ when we meet us soon. I hope that you are Thom are enjoying Hawaii. Thanks so much for stopping by during your time away!

    2. Yes! Rightsized is the best description! Worrying about my teaching job last month lit a little fire under me as I venture into some new pursuits for the new class, and growing legs under my consulting biz. I can’t wait to yak about all these ideas with you, Janis, Donna, & Liesbet next month!

    1. Hi, Jill – Thank you so much for faithfully following this series. (I continue to maintain that there should be a ‘loyalty award’ for bloggers!) I’m glad that you enjoyed Terri’s post. You’re right – she (like you) is an incredible inspiration!

  6. Hi Terri! You certainly nailed it! It was that feeling of “what am I now?” that put me into a tailspin and ultimately launched the Encore Voyage. I can remember feeling like “just the char-woman,” while the hubs created the architecture part of our business. It was especially hard when I allowed my teaching credential to lapse! Yowza! But as Lisa says above, retirement really is about re “creation.” Now I’m not only a golfer, quilter, reader, blogger, musician…I’m a bunch of things I haven’t even figured out yet – so much to explore!
    Lynn recently posted…Encore Quotes – Random ReflectionsMy Profile

    1. Hi, Lynn – It’s wonderful to see you actively blogging again! I also agree that retirement is about ‘re-creation’. It is so exciting to wake up each day and know that we can explore our passions — and create new ones! I look forward to reading more of your recent journey.

  7. In five years of retirement, I don’t think I have once wondered what to do all day, but it’s hard to describe succinctly when people ask. So like you, I hate the “what do you do?” question or, from people who know I’m retired “what are you getting up to these days?” I find the latter quite patronising actually. You’d think I’d have worked out a good answer by now!
    Anabel Marsh recently posted…Jasper National ParkMy Profile

    1. Hi, Anabel – I’ve only been retired for 2 years (+ 3.5 months!). But like you, I’ve never once wondered what I would do all day. Actually, I often wonder how to fit in everything that I want to do, and what to do first! Fingers crossed, I don’t see this slowing down any time soon!

    2. Hi Anabel, when I first retired and had to wait 6 months before I could resume teaching, I felt like I had to quantify my time to everyone! I still do sometimes, but some folks will actually say, “You’re retired, why are you telling me…” In the end, they’re a little jealous. You should make up some outlandish story to throw them off 🙂

  8. That question – what do you do? – has been difficult to answer. I wonder if people are really asking themselves what they would do in retirement. I’m a firm believer that time requires management whether one is employed or not; you know, do time so time doesn’t do you. Is that question – what do you do? – like “How are you?” Most people aren’t prepared to listen to the long answer! And, Terri, your life would require the long answer.

    1. You are so right Mona. Learning how to manage our time, both in work and in retirement, is essential. Otherwise, time will quickly manage us. Sad but true, many people don’t engage/listen well enough for the long answer to “What do you do?”. As Terri brilliantly illustrates, the long answer often contains many hidden gems. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

    2. Well, I will definitely take that as a compliment, Mona 🙂 That is a hard question to answer in the typical 30 second elevator pitch… sometimes I just tell people on my non-classroom days that I sit around all day in my yoga pants, and watch their expressions, LOL!

  9. I really enjoyed Terri’s post and I always love reading her blog. You are all so inspiring and have helped me understand and cope with this retirement gig in so many ways. The questions Terri poses are thought provoking and I just love her attitude. I had an interesting experience last week going to a specialist and writing on the form where it asked for my occupation. I wrote ‘retired’ and his first words to me were, you can’t be retired you’re too young and you need to keep your brain active. I was able to tell him I’m happily retired and keep myself very busy and productive, I’m a blogger, I do volunteer work, I exercise daily…. he wasn’t convinced!! I love my new life and have certainly recreated myself as said in previous comments.
    So looking forward to next week’s post too Donna, can’t wait to see what I say 😊🌴

    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you for sharing this. I believe that the attitude of your ‘specialist’ is all too common. I don’t know how many times I was told that I would be bored, inactive and even that I would become unemployable! Seriously?! That is the whole goal of retirement — I no longer wish to be employed! I love following your retirement transition and your positive energy. I look forward to your post publishing on my site next week…and you commenting from Fiji! Congratulations and best wishes to your daughter and new son-in-law!

      1. Thanks Donna, I believe you are right in the attitude of some people, it’s the first time I’ve encountered it so blatantly. Thanks also for the opportunity to share all these wonderful bloggers and their words of wisdom with us and Terr is a great example of living a happy and productive life.
        Now I really must go and pack as we leave first thing tomorrow!
        Debbie Harris recently posted…52 week photography project – Week 12: The KitchenMy Profile

  10. DO NOT USE THE WORD—“RETIREMENT”!!!! Instead think of it as the first time in a life when one can do whatever they want subject to only two limitations…Health…And…Wealth. Finding the path ahead is the challenge 🙂

    PS–When asked what I do, I say: “I am no longer a w-2 taxpayer.” 🙂

    1. Hi, Frank – Thank you so much for stopping by to visit Terry’s post here. I greatly appreciate it.
      I love your definition of this period of life…and your answer to “What do you do?”

  11. My tongue-and-cheek answer is “I’m the CEO/ President of Personal Wealth Management company. My current portfolio includes Health, Family, Home Life & Relationship Management, Recreation, Finance, Special Events, Advanced Education and Growth, Energy, Tourism, Culture and Sport, Current Affairs, and New Explorations.” I’ve got lots of practice and can say this in 30 seconds 🙂

    1. Now that’s a creative answer!! And, it’s incredibly impressive that you can deliver this reply in 30 seconds. I would love to see people’s faces in response to your answer! 🙂

  12. Great thoughts here, Terri. And you’re certainly right about Boomers redefining retirement just as they redefined work and careers. I enjoyed this post.

    Thanks, Donna, for featuring this.

    1. Hi, Marty – Thanks so much for stopping by. It’s interesting that you mentioned Boomers. I just read an article regarding Boomers approach to retirement which stated that “65% of Baby Boomers plan to work past age 65 or do not plan to retire at all .” [Transamerica Center] I feel fortunate to be in the minority of Boomers on this issue!”

  13. Some wise words here, Terri. I totally agree that leisure could be a way to redefine your identity and would love to hear answers like that when asking “What do you do?” Although, I never really ask that question, since I – not being retired – have a hard time answering it myself. 🙂 Like you, I am doing A LOT of different things. We, women, seem to be such busy bees with lots of interests.

    The question I get asked most frequently is “Where are you from?”, not really “What do you do?” Not that that question is an easy one to answer either. 🙂

    Great post that, I”m sure, will inspire a lot of readers. I”m looking forward to hearing everyone’s new “What do you do” answers!!
    Liesbet recently posted…Weekend Trips around Santa Fe, NM – Taos and SurroundingsMy Profile

    1. I bet that can be a fun question to answer, Liesbet, and not that easy to answer like you say. When my cousin (half Korean/Caucasian) moved to Portland, OR, she was constantly asked “What are you?” Kind of rude, huh? I really like Natalie’s elevator speech in the comment above…makes us all think! Many thanks, Liesbet!

    2. Hi, Liesbet – Ahhh, my youngest son is totally unnerved by the “Where are you from ?” question. He was born in Ontario (Canada), moved to British Columbia (Canada) when he was five. DId his MS and all High School in Beijing. Did his University in British Columbia , Newfoundland (Canada), Singapore and Manchester. He speaks Mandarin (and English) and works at the University of Singapore. The “where are you from” question totally exhausts him…and he says that most people don’t really want the long answer! I am glad that we are rethinking the questions that we ask…and the answers that we give!

  14. After 3 years, I still respond with “I used to”… Sigh. I like Natalie’s CEO statement… I’m going to write my own! When 90% of my existence was work (workaholic here), it was easy to articulate my identity as my work title. Now, no 2 days are alike! And the weeks fly by. Maybe the term retirement will evolve in meaning with so may of us re-creating ourselves in our 21st Century Retirements.
    Pat recently posted…21st Century Retirement – Planning Beyond the MoneyMy Profile

    1. Hi, Pat – It makes sense for the term ‘retirement’ to evolve as so many of us continue to redefine it. The more that I meet fellow retirees, and follow retirement bloggers, the more that I realize that there is NOTHING retiring about retirement! I look forward to reading your CEO statement!

  15. I was going to retire on September 1, but after I tendered my resignation, I didn’t feel good about it. I pitched to my company that I could job share and had another nurse with experience who wanted to be my work partner, and they agreed. I started my new schedule last week and now work two days/week – Thursday and Friday. It feels good to have this flipped schedule – 5 days off, 2 days of work instead of the other way around. The first week I was so busy I didn’t think I could get everything done, but I also had time to stop and chat with an old friend I bumped into at the bank, and loved the freedom to take a walk and work on my blog and book release during the day when I have energy! I look forward to fostering the positive attitude I see in you, Terri as I move through this transition to full retirement.
    Molly Stevens recently posted…Why the NFL should ban singing national anthem at gamesMy Profile

  16. Hi, Molly – I absolutely LOVE this! Congratulations to you for finding a creative retirement plan that works for you and doing the legwork to create and propose this solution to your employer. This is such a great model to other potential retirees who are not wanting to quit full-time. I look forward to reading about your upcoming adventures!

  17. Terri, I love the idea of answering the question “What do you do?” with other aspects of our lives besides career. I am in a strange transitional period where I have another 4-5 years of work, but I am no longer climbing the career ladder. It triggered a bit of an identity crisis for me, but now I am embracing it. I am a grandmother, a blogger, a runner, and so much more! Thanks for the peak into what “retirement” looks like for you.

    Donna, thanks again for running this delightful series!
    Christie Hawkes recently posted…2nd blogiversary celebration (aka a give-away)!My Profile

    1. Christie, my last year and a half of work was difficult for me in the same way that you describe: I was still “at work” but no longer on the career ladder. However, as it turned out, it was a great way to step away from a work-defined workaholic identity and prepare to transition to retirement.

      Dr Sock recently posted…Why the Angst About Retirement, Dr Sock?My Profile

  18. Hi, Christie – Thanks so much for stopping by. I agree that it makes sense to define ourselves by other aspects of our lives, not just work. Actually, I do not know what you do for work. But I did already know about your passions that you listed above. I also know that you are a photographer, a fan of Hawkes’ Landing….and that you are very knowledgeable on the uses/benefits of pumpkin! 🙂

  19. What a wonderful idea to challenge students early to define themselves by their passion rather than by their job.

    Thankfully I had a mentor in my 40s who challenged me to define myself beyond my career. It was life-changing. We are so much more than what we ‘do’ to earn money.

  20. Hi, Joanne – You are so fortunate to have had such a wise mentor. We are all definitely more than what we do for our careers!

  21. Hi Terri, your post is spot on. I will share with a few friends who are struggling to have a life after losing their jobs in the mid 50’s. Your insights are equally valid for this situation, as you very clearly articulated the mindset which conditions us all to believe that we’re only worthy if we ‘do’ something as opposed to being someone. And doing is mostly related to work not hobbies.
    I for one, have been learning lots from your insights and experience, and I am your big fan.

    1. Hi, Terri – Thank you so much for stopping by to read Terri’s post here. I agree that it is packed with insights and is very worthwhile of sharing with others. Thank you for doing that!

  22. Terri, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on how, as baby boomers, we have defined our identities so much in terms of work. Since I was six years old, except for brief leaves (e.g., maternity), I have either been in school preparing for a future work life or working! And I think this is true of many in our generation. No wonder it is so hard to think of identity in a more holistic way.

    On the other hand, I have always felt defined by multiple identities: professor, writer, artist, skier, mother, etc. It just felt as if work was hogging up all the time in my life, not allowing those other aspects to flourish. But now in retirement I finally feel as though I can become a more complete and integrated me.

    Thanks for your thought-provoking piece.

    Dr Sock recently posted…Why the Angst About Retirement, Dr Sock?My Profile

    1. Hi, Jude – I love this comment and the expressions that you have used here, esp. “a more complete and integrated me”. Consider some of these phrases stolen! 🙂

  23. Thanks for your thoughtful post, Terri. I’m currently finding a bigger issue than “what do you do?” and that’s an undercurrent of either envy or disparagement that I’ve retired at an early age. In light of that, no answer to “what do you do” seems to satisfy either my questioner or me. I need to develop a thicker skin!

    1. Hi, Karen – Thank you so much for stopping by and adding this important piece. You worked hard (understatement) and deserve to enjoy your retirement fully. Nothing that anyone says/does/implies should be allowed to dampen this.

  24. Well, I can’t argue with anything you say, Terri. In fact, I rather like your way of retirement (or should that be semi-retirement). I love the thought of answering the question “what do you do?” with the answer “I write” rather than “I’m retired.” It certainly adds a bit of sparkle into the equation when making my mind up as to what to say.
    You certainly like to keep yourself busy, and I truly believe that it is one of the main ingredients of retirement. I was very lucky to have been able to retire early in my life. From day one, I’ve kept myself busy and have noticed how quickly time seems to fly. I often wonder if time would fly quicker if I sat down all day and watched the world go by but, like you, I do not intend finding out. For me, this is certainly the best part of life., although maybe I should wait until my ‘sell-by’ date comes up before I decide on that? 🤔
    Hugh Roberts recently posted…Book Launch – Circumstances of Childhood by John W. HowellMy Profile

    1. Hi, Hugh – “I write” is such a great response. Consider it stolen!
      Like you and Terry, I never want to find out what life would be like sitting around all day watching the world go by.
      Fingers crossed that won’t happen to any of us!

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