This week, I am pleased to present a guest post from a fellow boomer girl and one of my blog readers. Her name is Moira and she recently retired. Moira’s words of wisdom about the wonderful discoveries and exciting explorations during this special time in her life have helped ease my Type A jitters as I begin to think about my own early retirement. Yes, I will be leaving my corporate career this spring. There are so many new opportunities to experience. I can’t wait. Thank you Moira for sharing your inspiring story:
I am 60 and I am enjoying my seventh fire of the winter – sitting in a comfortable chair, accompanied by a good book, a glass of sherry and a warm and gentle kitten by my side. Why is it significant that this is my seventh fire of the winter? And that I just restocked my firewood supply for the first time in years? For me, enjoying this many long evenings in front of a fire, just half way through the winter, is one of the symbols of what I have learned in my first few months as a retired woman.
I retired in May from a 36-year professional career. It was a career that brought great satisfaction, time with amazing people and interesting travel. But it was a career that also brought a deep weariness and a nagging frustration that my life had narrowed. There was never enough time to read in front of my fireplace or even buy firewood.
Writing this guest post has forced me to clarify my thoughts about retirement. Here’s what I’ve learned in this short time:
Deciding to retire is one decision; how to “be retired” is an entirely different one. Deciding to retire is all about finances, shedding a work persona, and saying goodbye to colleagues. I was unable to get to the decision to retire until I put on hold the decisions about how I would spend my time after retirement. For me, deciding to retire needed its own focus. Realizing I had confused two distinct decisions got me unstuck and I was able to give the decision to retire the full attention it deserved.
I needed a period of transition to understand how to “be retired”. When I started talking about retirement, some friends advised not to retire without knowing exactly how I would spend my time. “Don’t fall off that cliff”, they warned. Others said I wouldn’t know what I wanted to do until I was retired – which turned out to be true for me. I needed time to disconnect. To meet new people. To test out new interests, some lurking for years on the sidelines. To sleep late and take naps. To let my mind wander. To “Google” every thread of interest I could uncover to see where it led. (In fact, that’s how I found Judi’s blog). Such time for exploration isn’t right for everyone but it was right for me. I am now settling into some choices, which feel good because I took the time to explore.
The real joy of retirement is the luxury of time. My sweetest lesson has been that retirement is really about having the time to do exactly what I want to do and when I want to do it. I can’t overstate how important this point is. I am making the choices that give me the great happiness because they truly are my first choices.
I still possess a valuable collection of skills. All this exploration over the last few months has also shown me that the skills I developed over my worklife can be put to valuable use in new and sometimes unexpected ways. To help others. To learn. To have fun. It was real work to separate from my work persona, but I see now that I have not lost any of my skills just because I stopped working. Funny that it took me awhile to understand that.
Negative thoughts happen; they just do. Do I really have enough in savings? Why have I started thinking of myself as “old”? If I am not working, am I still valuable? Why am I calling retirement my “final chapter”? Will I be bored? Apologies for the drama, but these are real fears that creep into my thoughts at the oddest times. For a few months, they were pretty unsettling. I finally just decided they aren’t useful so I trained myself to dismiss them when they creep in. And they do. They are part – a small part – of the big change I am still experiencing.
So with the benefit of several months of self-reflection, I now find myself more comfortable than ever about my decision to retire and how to “be retired.” I am happier here in my first year of retirement than I ever expected to be. When the time is right for you, I wish you all the same joy, and ultimately, clarity.
I hope you enjoyed Moira’s guest post. Let me know if you have a story about your life after 50 that you would like to share with fellow boomer girls. Would you like to write a guest post? Send along a note or leave a comment.
You’ve made a very good point about separating the decision to retire from the “how to be retired” part of life. I retired 3 years ago, at 52, knowing that I would be on a limited income. I, however, needed that luxury of time. Like you, time to explore. And time to get healthy. In my busy work years, my physical (and mental) health took a back-seat and I generally felt run down. Since retirement, people say I look 10 years younger, and it’s because I have the time and energy to look after my physical self.
The question of “If I’m not working am I still valuable?” is a big one and comes up for me time and time again. I have many strategies to counter those fears, and I have to practice them. I have spent my adult life identifying with the work that I did, and now I don’t do it anymore. So, who am I?
I’m still learning.
Tara, thank you for your comment. This is a topic that hits home for many boomer women and men. I hope I look and feel better when I retire this spring too. I wish you all the best and hope you continue to enjoy your life after 50.
I was stressed out and over my job but equally as terrified of retirement.
I started off by taking a mid-life gap year where, like Moira, my life began to unfold by simply doing things which I was drawn to.
My life has now feels more like a new adventure than retirement.
Priska, thanks for your comments. It’s reassuring to know that retirement can be an adventure.