I suppose every retired person has their own answer to the questions, What’s retirement like? What does a person do?
Recently I was asked by a soon-to-be-retired person who’s feeling a little insecure about what he might do with all that freedom. I guess the prospect is scary for some people. It never was for me because I’ve always dreamed of having full-time freedom to be creative or expand my non-working-life skills and enjoyment. Anyway, here’s a version of my reply email.
Hubby has just gone skiing for the afternoon, so I’m catching up on some email, then I’ll go out to catch up on some chore-running-around.
The idea of retiring can bring up those kinds of questions. What do we do all the time? The short answer is, “Anything we want!!!” That’s the best part of retirement. No expectations, no boss or work demands, nothing we HAVE TO do except upkeep of ourselves and home.
I get to do my crafts (or not), read books (or not), sit at my computer for FUN instead of work, get chores and shopping done when the rest of the world is at work instead of having to cope with doing it during the busiest weekend/evening times. I like learning new things, so I try out new crafts from time to time. Currently working on teaching myself “needle felting”. I occasionally have lunch dates with friends, see afternoon matinees at the movies (what a luxury!), enjoy cooking (or not), etc. In the summer, enjoy my small deckgarden and snoozing in the big hammock. I enjoy my walks in the local park. In the colder indoor months, from time to time I still do some document editing because I miss it –but I don’t miss having to do it, having people expect me to get it to them in a timely manner, etc. I did some work researching and writing for the Dalai Lama Center for about 6 months during my first year of retirement. Last year I worked with an Edmonton friend editing his doctorate thesis. I’ve helped our kids and other family, copyediting their papers when they were in post-secondary school. Ongoingly, I’m helping a friend with commenting and/or copyediting her writings, which she sometimes submits to magazines and contests. Oh, and I enjoy occasionally writing articles in my own blog. 🙂
I also signed up with a couple of microvolunteering websites. Microvolunteering is doing volunteer work from home. This weekend I found another volunteering site I’ll work with — Help From Home — doing some proofreading for a group who are working on the Gutenberg Project. They scan in books that are no longer copyrighted, then volunteers work on the books, page by page, to ensure that the scanned pages match the original — quite often, scanned text isn’t entirely accurate, as the scanner sees everything as images rather than words and sometimes gets words wrong. (Example: the word “and”, if it’s on an older or worn page in an old book, might be seen by the scanner as “ahd”.) So the volunteers go through it word by word and correct scanning errors. I did a couple dozen pages this weekend and really enjoyed it.
Anyway, you get the idea…. I keep busy (or not), only on things I enjoy, and when I stop enjoying, I move on to the next more enjoyable thing.
Hubby truly enjoys having an unscheduled life, enjoys having nobody, especially bosses, expecting him to be someplace at a certain time every day, or be responsible for students or lesson planning or the performance of teaching. He loves reading books and catching up on his news — business, science, technology, etc. — via computer. He enjoys his computer games. He’s a master at the art of doing nothing — which sounds weird but he can sit for hours and just think — I suppose it’s like meditating, which is very healthy for us, as you know. His saying is, “Everything I need to know about retirement I’ve learned from my cat.”
My saying is, “Human being, not human doing!” (A Rumi quote)
In short, we’re both happy and highly recommend the retired life to all and sundry.
Some tips for you: Think (often) about what you’d rather be doing while you’re doing your current work stuff, and to start making a list of what comes to mind at that thought. Then when you retire you can start working on that list. And of course there are your hobbies — I just know there are some enjoyable activities you’ve been doing all your life, and now you can do them anytime instead of only when you can squeeze in some time. Check online — there are so many free courses, and learning something new is good for our retired brains. If you have a phone or tablet, try out some new educational apps. Learn a new language with Duolingo (just one example). Get creative, try new things, brush your teeth with the other hand… do one random act of kindness a day…
Most importantly, you don’t have to plan. You can just start out on a life of doing whatever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want. It’s FREEDOM! to be who we really are instead of the working life of meeting every external expectation others have of us. During our first few months of retirement we went through that phase of feeling guilty about doing nothing! But sooner or later, we all have to remember that we earned this freedom, that we enjoyed life enormously in the days before we HAD TO work to support ourselves, and that this is definitely the time of life to begin reaping the rewards of all we’ve accomplished at work. Everybody who works enjoys their few days/weeks of holiday time — they know they earned it and deserve it and it’s a relief to be away from work. A retiree just needs to start thinking of retirement as a well-earned holiday… one that goes on and on and become anything we want it to be from day to day, and can change to anything else we want if it starts to feel boring.
Well, I sure didn’t mean to have this be so long… first time I’ve actually written anything about what retirement is like. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it!
And I did. And there you have it. Now I’m moving on to the next thing I want to do today!