Retirement was a distant fantasy for decades, something I wouldn’t allow myself to think about. It was too far away to let myself start dreaming about it, lest I lose the will to continue the daily grind. Now, suddenly, it’s here. These first six weeks of retirement have revealed reflections and realizations I could not have predicted.
Most surprising has been that I no longer make lists of things I should do ‘someday’. Now, when I think of something I need/want to do, I just do it. I used to think ‘I would like to knit this pattern someday’. Now when I think that, I realize someday is here. I don’t have to put it on the long ‘someday’ list so that I can attend to chores instead; I can make it now. If I wake up and feel like having waffles for breakfast, I can make them without having to wait for Saturday or Sunday. If I see something that needs cleaning, I can take care of that now. No more lists haunting me with what I should be doing in my precious non-work time. I don’t have to wait for the weekend or for when more pressing tasks have been completed. And I am actually motivated to do it; while working, it was easy to put things off.
One thing that was very easily put off was closet cleaning and general reorganization. I told those who asked what I planned to do after retiring that this was top of my list. A common response was, ‘you’ll never do that’. It was the first thing I tackled, and I feel so much better for having done it. I’ve discovered treasures, divested myself of trash, and organized what was left so that I can actually find things. When I share with my former co-workers that I’m doing this and feel so much better for it, they look at me as if I’m extra-planetary. The only person who understands this feeling is a friend who also recently retired and has been likewise engaged in tidying.
Those still employed love to try to think of things I can do with my time, such as classes or volunteer work. Filling my time has not been an issue. There are lots of things I always wanted to do but couldn’t when work consumed my schedule; now I can actually do them. I’ve read a couple of books, finished a couple of knitting projects, tried a couple of new recipes, and gotten a lot more exercise. I didn’t realize that my phone’s pedometer app would send me a ‘rewards’ text when I reached a preset step goal each day until one day I received the first one. That had never happened when I was chained to a desk all day, then flopped into a chair when I got home. Now I’m motivated to try for those rewards daily—and can actually achieve them.
My attitude toward senior discounts has changed. I was thoroughly appalled the first time I was given a senior discount without having asked for it or been asked if I qualify. Am I really that old? I don’t feel old! But now I will take advantage of them when I can. Senior Mondays at the local theater are a big help to our budget and motivate us to actually see the movies whose trailers interest us but that we never would see because we didn’t have the time or energy.
Laundry day is now different. One day I realized that I hadn’t touched a whole section of my closet since retiring. I now dress from the ‘casual’ section of my closet, with great satisfaction. I am free to dress to please only myself and not to conform to a business norm. This does not mean pj’s and robes all day, just more comfortable styles and fabrics.
I’ve realized that I don’t drink as much coffee or alcohol. I don’t need coffee to prop me up during the day, and I don’t need alcohol to help decompress from a workday. I have a coffee now when I relish the taste of one, and I have good coffee, not just what’s available/convenient.
The biggest surprise of all was realizing how much time and energy is absorbed by having to stay in work mode. I did it for decades because one has to. When I quit, a huge weight was lifted from my psyche. I was surprised at how immediate and relieving this feeling was. Guilt tried to creep in at first, but I would remind myself that I’ve earned this. I’ve saved for it, and now it’s time to pay myself and to set my own agenda.
Recently we ran into friends we hadn’t seen for a while, both retired, who didn’t realize I had retired. They asked how long since I’d retired. When I told them, they both got knowing looks on their faces and said ‘ah, a newbie’. I have a lot to learn on this journey. I’m sure my impressions about it will change. But for now I’m still enthused and encourage anyone who can do this to make it so.
Time now to go do whatever I want!