My first post-retirement article, “The Road Ahead: I Just Retired,” captured my mindset once the dust settled. It’s a good starting point to reflect on my first year of retirement. Looking at reality vs. expectations, the unexpected, and where my thoughts on retirement land now.
I’m immediately struck by the sense of enthusiasm I portrayed throughout “The Road Ahead.” My emotional state was genuinely eager and confident, but it was not without a slight sense of uneasiness. A normal range of feelings one might encounter when starting something new.
Mostly, the year lived up to my expectations since I was ready to move on to something new. It wasn’t without challenge, but I didn’t expect it to be. It was like a “continuing education” course in the art of cultivating life balance. A journey of rediscovering myself within a new framework.
I also suffered from burnout, being physically and mentally exhausted after 35+ years in the workforce. It was a beautiful gift to myself to spend all of January and February resting. The option to sleep in or linger in bed with a book or podcast was delicious! By spring, I felt revitalized.
Be aware that, as a new retiree, you may experience unexpected feelings like sadness, grief or even depression. You may ask yourself, “Did I make a mistake?” That was not the case for me, but it’s real and happened to someone I know. It began after the “honeymoon phase,” when they no longer had the sense of being on vacation.
If this happens to you, remember to practice self-compassion. Allow yourself time to adjust and process your feelings. Seek help from family, friends, or a mental health expert if you remain overwhelmed by unwanted emotions beyond a reasonable amount of time (you know you best).
I never looked back or missed my job. Freedom and flexibility were and still are my fundamental desires. Having the time and space to write at my pace still tops my joy list.
Just prior to retiring, I made a commitment to Sixty and Me to submit a monthly blog article over the next year. That minor act of foresight proved invaluable during my first year of retirement. From day one, it set me up with a means to explore a dream and connect with my creative side. It was also mentally stimulating and lent itself to my curious and research-oriented nature.
If you’re planning to retire soon, I highly recommend you have some kind of plan in place to provide structure and personal meaning within your life. Rest and relaxation are great, but remember to maintain a sense of purpose is an important element of healthy aging.
Though I don’t miss my job, I miss the daily interaction with former co-workers, who were also friends. Despite my tendency towards introversion, I reach a threshold and need a social fix. Scheduling semi-regular lunch dates with friends and former co-workers has been a key practice for me in the past year.
As a new retiree, be careful not to isolate yourself! Studies support social connection as another pillar in healthy aging. Plan time to socialize with family, friends and former co-workers. Volunteer work may also provide social interaction.
Here’s what threw me off a bit:
Transitioning to retirement from a Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule is disorienting! I’ve always calendared events rather than relying on memory, but now it’s a necessity. I also find it helpful to create a flexible game plan for each week, and I try to adhere to some daily routines. These practices help in establishing a sense of time.
For years, I was required to keep a “Project Report” at work. While I cursed it, I also loved the sense of accomplishment I experienced upon removing a completed item from the report. I’m not a hardcore “Type A” personality, but I cannot deny my need for organization, goal-setting, and the need to feel a sense of accomplishment.
Repurposing “Type A” tendencies was beneficial for me. I still set goals, with timelines, regarding things I want to pursue in retirement. On a short-term basis, I allocate days of the week or time within a specific day to “check off the list” activities. This might include rearranging a closet, cleaning out the junk drawer, meeting exercise goals, or running errands.
This was the magic question I asked myself in “The Road Ahead.” The answer is still yes! I’ve also grown in my ability to be honest with myself. I’ve learned that acting on that honesty is optional. What matters most is that my choice to act or not is deliberate, and not out of fear.
Mary Oliver’s lovely poem, The Journey, is still my favorite invitation to live your best life in retirement. But damn, those “ankle tugs” and “the voices” are still around, although they are much easier to deal with or ignore. Unless you live in a vacuum, some level of compromise will always be a part of your life.
Crappy days are also still part of the equation and to be expected. If I’m having a bad day, I sometimes brew a cup of coffee, pull out my retirement cards, and allow the sentiments to lift my spirits. I’m truly grateful that most days in the past year were good ones. I have no regrets!
What threw you off the most during the 1st year of retirement? How did you adjust to the unexpected? What are your fondest memories of the first year of retirement?