Many of us look forward to the day we retire. As our professional lives wind down, that moment we can finally leave it all behind beckons us like a Promised Land.
I retired from a demanding career five years ago, and I can say that much of that promised bliss is real. It wasn’t a chore to abandon the alarm clock, stay in yoga pants all day, or plan vacations.
But I also discovered that this retirement “thing” was a little more complicated than I thought it would be. I could find myself at a loss. Missing all the… structure. Conversation. Purpose?
Retirement can be harder than it looks.
So, I started a quest to make the path easier as I created a life beyond “work.” I did some digging; I talked with other women. And I learned these three things along the way.
Working in the world gives us warm and fuzzy feelings about how productive we are. How much we’re contributing. We often associate our relevance with productivity, and we want to remain relevant as we age.
But one gift of a retired life is that we can release what we believe we should do or what we need to accomplish and embrace what we want to do, what feels right for us at the time.
Does that email have to go out today? Will that laundry get just as clean tomorrow? Is accepting that invitation going to lighten me up or drag me down?
We may need a system upgrade to Productivity 2.0… our own version what’s critical or important. That might include eliminating a lot of “shoulds.”
And that’s OK.
Rituals contribute to a healthy daily life. Establishing new ones after we leave our jobs can be tricky.
Make the transition to retirement easier by continuing to use a calendar. Mark down events, create a plan. Even if it’s just simply noting trips to the market or dental appointments. Calendars have a way of making us feel productive… especially if you like to check items off a list.
Celebrate the ritual of “real meals.” They don’t have to be fancy. But they’re certainly more than the ones we used to eat on the fly, at a desk, or in the car.
Set regular times for rising in the morning and turning off the light at night. That signals our bodies that there’s a tempo to life. And we may discover we get a more restful sleep.
We can create our own rhythms in this season of life, ones that suit a retired lifestyle and are free from previous constraints.
A social network is important for a rich retired life. We need relationships to thrive.
But it can be difficult to find community when we lose the convenience of the workplace. Some of us left behind lifelong friends when we left our jobs. At the very least, we left behind cordial interactions that lightened our days.
Retirement is an opportunity to explore new outlets for social interaction. Community organizations and Meetup groups are two options. Involving ourselves in causes that inspire us is another. Or it can be as simple as visiting with a neighbor we were too busy to talk with in the past.
Some avenues will be dead ends, but our efforts to find soulful connections are worth it if we’re to have a happy retired life.
Life will never be blissful all the time, retired or not. But feeling fulfilled is possible (and very likely) once we leave full-time work behind.
Deciding how that looks on our own terms can be the best feeling of all.
Have you hit some bumps on the road to a happy retired life? What have you done to make the transition easier? Let’s have a conversation!