Search “RETIREMENT” in Google and you will get financial advice only. Important, yes, but there is so much more to be addressed in this stage of life, projected at today’s longevity expectancy to be about one-third of it. Retirement is often anticipated, but just as often disappointing. Tales of boredom, anxiety, loneliness, abandonment, stagnation, and ill health abound in the retirement community. And, no wonder.
According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, to retire is to “ stop a job or career because you have reached the age when you are not allowed to work anymore or do not need or want to work anymore; withdraw from one's position or occupation; conclude one's working or professional career.” Notice there is not one positive verb here. By definition, to “retire” is a not-so-subtle reminder of our mortality.
While mortality is not an option, how we spend the last one-third of our lifetime is. Some may continue working, either full time or part-time, from desire or necessity. But for those of us who take the retirement path, we must watch the gap; this gap can be disastrous, if we are not paying attention. The gift of time is finally ours, and if we aren't alert to this time gap, we risk squandering it and creating a life that feels lacking in something.
Teaching was my life. Even when I wasn’t at school, I was thinking about my classroom and what was coming next. So, I welcomed the stress relief, as I let that part of my work life go. It was euphoric and energizing to feel so free. I woke early and went for a daily walk – a walk that evolved into a slow jog of three miles (I had never been a runner!). My health improved. My golf improved. My outlook improved.
My point is this. Be open to things you have never done before in this gap between work and your retirement life. Do not fall into perpetual relaxation just because you have stopped working, are not allowed or do not need or want to work, have withdrawn from your occupation, or concluded your professional career. Do not get comfortable with yourself as you are. Continue to improve. Continue to embrace new ideas. Look out the window, not in the mirror!
Advice whether or not you ask: This is a life-changing read for anyone, but especially those of us with the gift of time in retirement.
Sometimes it's not easy to rekindle the fire of a particular passion that may have been put aside due to the time constraints of earning a living, spending time with family and friends, and all the other hats we wear as we keep moving on through the years. All of a sudden, here you are, plenty of time, and feeling all dressed up with no place to go. So we volunteer in our communities ( I recently joined the Elks) and search for a sense of purpose to fill the void that our careers once did. It's sad to see the number of retirees bellying up to the bar early in the afternoon, searching for a sense of community and an end to the daily boredom that comes from living a life without a sense of purpose.
2/24/2015 11:12:06 am
"Do not get comfortable with yourself as you are." That's a piece of advice that's applicable at any age, though tough to follow because it means occasionally admitting deep dissatisfaction with yourself, challenging yourself to rise above bad habits, pernicious assumptions, and lowered expectations. My hope is that, through this perpetual process of dissatisfaction, striving, and breakthrough, we also learn to have more empathy for ourselves and others.
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Random Reflections by Etta
Blogging about transitions, education, and life. Giving advice, whether or not you ask. Current topic: Whatever is on my mind.