Starting Over

Oftentimes, my ideas for blog posts come from words spoken to me by someone I’ve met up with, a friend or one of my readers, hearing something on TV or reading an article. During the last few years I’ve heard many, many people comment about starting over when they retire. Some look forward to retiring with the excitement of entering a new venture. Others lament the idea after being forced to retire because of poor health, a spouse’s illness or an employer terminating their job position. Whatever the reason for retiring, we are all starting over, as we will many times in life.

A lifetime ago, I left one job for another job. A larger paycheck, less work and no travel. My then current supervisor, in an effort to keep me where I was, said, “I hate to see you start over someplace else, especially at your age.” Laughable today since I was a mere thirty-five at the time. I wasn’t sure if this was a scare tactic or a reflection of his regret since he had scrapped a position elsewhere, in his forties, to join the company and become my boss. Whatever it was, I didn’t fall for his line. Instead, I recognized then as I recognize now, we start over many, many times during our lives. We begin anew again and again.

Starting over when we are young is seen as progress. We start over when we enter kindergarten or middle school, high school and then college or trade school. We start over with our first real job. We start over with each promotion on the job. New responsibilities, maybe an office of our own. We start over with the move to another city or state or perhaps another country. We leave familiar territory and old friends behind. Then there’s starting over after a relationship ends, divorce and starting over with a new relationship. There’s lots of starting over — new beginnings following endings.

Retirement leaves a void once filled by paid work. There are as many ways to fill that void as there are rain drops in a puddle. The trick is choosing the activities that are fulfilling to you. If you have a lifetime of hobbies and volunteer work in your quiver, you may have an easier time adding purpose back into your life.

Then, of course, there are those who did not choose retirement as much as having it chosen for them. It’s not unusual to experience grief for a lost way of life, a paycheck, work friends, daily routine. However, people who choose their retirement date most often feel the same loss. Acknowledging the loss and accepting the ensuing grief will eventually let you move on. Then you can embrace the opportunity before you.  The opportunity to grow, to prosper in ways other than money or promotions.

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning? Stay active! In my unexpected role of caregiver, I’m starting over. Yet, I continue, for both our sakes, to find snippets of time to garden and write and do art. While Martin leans on me, I’ve learned to bank on my strengths. What are your strengths? I was always highly organized at work. Something I let slip in my early years of retirement. Now, I’m pulling that rabbit back out of the hat. I also put a huge value on my time and guard it with zeal. I find it easier to say no.

Create your retirement circle of friends. Once you retire, unless your current friends are also retiring, you may find you have less in common with them. Your schedule will no longer revolve around Monday through Friday work weeks. Every day is Saturday. I developed new friendships by taking classes. Common interests create a common bond. Volunteering at an organization whose good works you value is another great way to find other retirees to add to your network. This is the time to try new activities. If one doesn’t pan out, you’re free to go on to another. It’s not like failing at a job. New friends are waiting. Put yourself out there.

Starting over can be difficult. It can also be exhilarating, challenging you to try things you never thought of doing, to experience and savor the unexpected. Think about the other times in life when you started over. How did you feel? What did you do? Give yourself time. Retirement is a journey of discovery and change. It’s just one more opportunity to start over.

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16 comments on “Starting Over

  1. LIFE is a “journey of discovery and change.” and that never changes…enjoy the ride moment by moment …thanks for thoughtful ideas & reminders.

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  2. Hi Kathy, I recently retired and found your blog. It is a great support to hear your words and gives me the push I sometimes need. It surprised me how hard this can be and I’m trying to keep going to shake feelings of depression. But I’m feeling a lot of pressure (self-imposed) to find what will give me purpose. Reading your blog and hearing that it’s a process is helpful. I’ll keep on trying! I’m looking for courses now and a volunteer effort — I think I’ve ruled out that another position in the management world where I spent my professional career just won’t do it for me. Time for a new identity, just not sure yet what that is, but it will include hobbies and family and home activities as well as the more purpose-driven. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us!

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    • Judi, It is a process and it’s my experience as well as the experience of others I know that it will take about 2 years to adjust to your new lifestyle. If you haven’t done so already, please read the posts in my header on Stages of Retirement and Meaning And Purpose. Look for courses at local colleges geared toward retirees as well as an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) that may be affiliated with a local college or university. Whatever you choose to do, give yourself time and put yourself out there. Best wishes. K

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  3. Very interesting and well written, Kathy. In effect, each day we start over and try to make the best of our lives. You were the first retirement blogger I read before embarking on this journey and you helped me transition into this new life with your positivity and zest. For now, things are wonderful and smooth going for me, but I am aware that life is not stagnant and that change and new challenges are inevitable! And we start over…Good luck with your new challenges and continue finding your snippets of joy.

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  4. Once again, you hit the nail on the head! I agree. I have restarted my life many, many times. I call them my Chapters. I love your writing style and the ease of every subject you discuss. Well done, dear friend!

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  5. Kathy, It’s interesting to think about all the starting overs we experience in our early years. And even in our career years… I made a number of job changes within the same company and each was in fact a starting over in my ways. Or got new bosses, which sometimes was an even bigger starting over. I recall going from a trusted advisor & business confidant with one boss, to someone who wasn’t never asked an opinion by the next boss. Quite a unique starting over.

    In retirement, there doesn’t seem to be as many major markers. You and I however have both recently had a few. Health concerns for either yourself or a significant person in your life is definitely a starting over point. Downsizing and moving is another. I think it’s helpful to put them into the same perspective as moving into junior high, graduation from college, starting a new job/assignment, or getting a new boss. It’s quite a fun way of thinking more about the road ahead, than the road behind. And to realize you’ve successfully started over so many times.

    I am savoring the experiences opening up to me. I am also recognizing that adapting to change takes me some time. Which is OK. And I have learned that all the time I invested in creating a new circle of retirement friends was worth it; they have been there for me in so many ways recently.

    It’s good to hear from you and I’m glad you are finding the snippets of time for yourself in this new starting over. Take care.

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    • Thanks Pat for the encouragement and it’s good to hear from you. We all have to take some time to adapt to change. Although change is the one occurrence in life we can count on, I think most of us are creatures of habit. Few of us jump in with both feet. K

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  6. Interesting and valuable post, especially for those in early or mid-stage retirement. I will note that “later stage” retirement is different at least for me. It’s harder to re-invent one’s self when loss of physical abilities and energy have become part of the picture. I’m an essential introvert so I’ve never had or needed more than 1-2 friends, and that’s true now as well. I worked until I was 78 and have been retired for 3 years now. I still volunteer and try to stay active, but nothing comes as easily or naturally as it did 10-15 years ago. I don’t mean to sound like the anti-Pollyanna but “keeping it real” has always been important to me.

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    • Elizabeth, I agree on keeping it real. Real is different for all of us. As you point out, as we age toward the end of the spectrum, activities may not come as easily or naturally. I’m happy to hear you are still volunteering and trying to stay active. I always enjoy hearing your views. K

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  7. I recently retired and have been shocked to find I don’t miss my job at all. I loved it but was getting tired of the 12 hour days and all the education and meetings that went with the job. I love waking up in the morning and wondering what the day will bring. I joined a new yoga studio and will do 5 classes a week. I walk most days as well. Since I have lots of free time I am cooking more and enjoying it. Reading, lunch with friends and gardening will fill more hours. As a friend who retired 4 years ago said – plan lots of time to just be. My husband will start to need more help so that is on my horizon. Someday volunteering may fit into my life but right now I am not ready to commit to anything that is demanding of my time in a structured format. I am ready for this change.

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    • Karen, You are in the honeymoon stage of retirement. I hope that continues to be the case for you. Enjoy what you are doing and be open to the possibility that your attitude may change as time goes on. That said, you are active so you should be able to continue adjusting, growing and feeling fulfilled in retirement. Best to you. K

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  8. Kathy – I have just read and enjoyed your post, which very much chimes with my own thoughts on retirement/semi-retirement, leaving a job. We are so defined by our work lives these days. There is more to life than work, when all’s said and done. At some point, we all have to move on. It can be scary, depressing, but also an opportunity to do things we always wanted to and to find who we are beyond our work personas. Life is a journey and a dynamic process for all of us. The challenge is to embrace all of that, rather than fight against it, for as long as we have the health and strength to do so. Perhaps our generation will be able to define retirement more positively for those coming along behind us.

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  9. I appreciate your blog and this topic. Coming up on one year of early retirement and a bit frustrated with myself for not having a clear role in life….still in the starting over phase.

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