I have talked to so many people across the years that have yearned for the day when they could retire; I was among them even though I really loved my job. The beauty of the thought lay in the idea that you could finally do what you wanted without the usual problems of time, responsibility and money.
Well, now I have been retired for a little over a year and I want to share some of my observations . It has been something of a difficult transition. Not really bad, but very unexpected. Some of the things I learned are: routine is really a comforting and necessary part of a happy life; having a purpose every day is important to happiness; feeling valuable and relevant may be the most important of all. Loneliness is a real problem–mainly because many of your friends and family are still working (at least in my case). Your body growing old is a factor you may not have anticipated properly. Let me expand.
Routine, (which is one of the major things we weary of and can’t wait to discard) is necessary. When you don’t have to get up at a specific time it is usually a relief and joy–at first. Soon I learned that my life was chaotic and much time wasted without a structure to help shape my days. The going-in-and-going-out of life while dull and predictable was also steadying and empowering (who knew?). My body clock has awakened me for years without an alarm clock, so rising time didn’t change that much but many people complain that they sleep in and then feel lethargic most of the day.
I begin each day now with a prayer and meditation period that forms my goal and purposes for the day. I keep a list of projects on my desk–things I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to doing. I schedule these projects on a calendar now so I have a purpose each day. Not only does it help with a feeling of order, value, and relevance but, hopefully, some of them will be enriching and serving to others as well as yourself. Everyone mentions volunteering, but be careful! Don’t volunteer for something you really don’t want to do or you’ll soon quit. The best thing about retirement is that you get to choose what you want to do.
Last is the loneliness problem. Even if you are blessed to have lots of family and friends around you, a lot of them will probably be working or busy with their own families and lives. Plan ahead mentally for the situation where your spouse is gone and you live alone. If you are still physically independent, arrange for people in your life who have similar situations and make an effort to make those connections while your spouse is still with you. Some of my friends who are single have built a circle of people who enjoy being with them and are available; others have not. It is lonely when your kids feel compelled to spend time with you because of guilt rather than pleasure, so don’t feel sorry for yourself and play on their conscience–nobody wins in that instance.
Retirement can be a wonderful time of life, of course and I believe it is! But the transition is sometimes very different than what you expected. Prepare and it will be the best time of your life!!!