Six years ago today I woke up officially retired from the workplace, a new identity waiting to be formed. Yes, six years!!! And what a six years it has been.
Prior to retiring I received lots of advice, most of it very useful wisdom, from people already enjoying a life filled with options of personal choice. Whether you are now retired or looking forward to it in the future, these nuggets of insight are worth repeating.
The first piece of wisdom came from a couple I volunteered alongside at a local farmers market. I still remember his face when he told me, “Guard your time jealously.” In the moment I didn’t realize how many people would be looking at me as a person who needed for them to fill my time. I found myself thinking of him and his advice again and again as well-meaning acquaintances, friends, even strangers, tugged at me to volunteer or join their organization of choice. This is your time to use as you choose – guard it jealously!
That said, another piece of advice was to give some of your time to a cause you care about deeply. I was already giving my time to volunteering at the agricultural extension’s information booth at the farmers market. So, that one was easy for me. That was my organization of choice. I educated. I taught people how to grow food, to create spaces for butterflies, bees and birds. I helped people make their gardens and the Earth a better place. It was fun. Find a cause where you willingly, happily and whole-heartedly give your time and your being.
That brings me to doing something you love. Whatever your lifelong hobby, now’s your time to enjoy it even more than ever. I know people who golf or play tennis several times a week, spend more hours acting at the community theater, make their garden into a show place around their home or turned their art into a source of income. Whatever it is up the ante. Keep doing it at a quantum leap.
Then, try something you always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time. Retirement affords the opportunity to start something new, fresh, fulfilling a dream. For me, that was taking up watercolor painting. I wasn’t good at it and didn’t enjoy it, but it led to other art mediums I do enjoy. With retirement you can start anew as many times as you wish. This is your moment for adventure! Failure is o.k. As a bonus of my adventures, I’ve met many other retirees in daytime art classes. Some became new friends.
Speaking of friends, realize that many of your friendships will be altered. The people who are still employed may drift away as your identity evolves. Or you may drift away from them as you find new acquaintances with a shared interest and time frame. Your social life will revolve around a daytime persona that is different from the work you. Be open to meeting new people.
Along with the advice of guarding your time jealously, the second piece of wisdom the couple mentioned above dispensed, “Give yourself two years to adjust.” It took all of two years and then some for me to settle in. Others may take no time at all. It depends on a lot of variables, such as your personality, your attachment to the type of work you did, how you left work – forced out, disability or planned exit, your retirement activities, your mental view and emotional feelings about retiring. Two years.
Lastly, retirement is an opportunity. It is not the dictionary definition of ceasing to work; it’s serendipity – the chance to do the kind of work you want to do. It’s the possibility of tapping into your reserved longings, the savoring of freedom to use your time as you choose. It’s the prospect of a fresh start in life. And, I hope this shared wisdom helps you to do just that.