I retired from a full-time university staff position a year ago to publish my blog, Parentsofgrownoffspring.com. Before this I thought I was good at self-organization. I also thought that writing the blog would give me just the focal point I needed to be as happy and productive as when I went to an office every day. Not quite, at least not right away. While I love this stage of my life, it’s been a learning experience. Here’s why:
1. It takes a long time to find a rhythm. I get up at the crack of dawn. In my office days this was perfect for exercising, showering, getting gussied up, and getting out of the house. Now, I’m neither getting gussied up nor getting out of the house. What to do in the early morning hours? Should I write first thing, when I do my best work, or should I exercise first thing so the day doesn’t get away from me? Should I make lunch dates, which are important for socialization but bad for concentration? Maybe I’ll just take a little nap and that will solve everything. . .
2. I am terrible at most hobbies. Over the years I had so much crafting desire and so little time, that when I retired from the university I signed up for every DIY class known to woman. These included but were not limited to basket weaving, paper folding, quilting, sewing, finger knitting, crocheting, bookbinding, weaving, welding, keyboard, ukulele, calligraphy, and scrapbooking. With the exception of quilting, I stunk! It was really humbling.
3. Doing good is not so good. I was sure that as soon as I retired, I would be magnetically drawn to one charity or another, where I would make a real contribution and get great personal satisfaction from helping those less fortunate than I. It turns out I hated serving on nonprofit boards. They have no choice but to relentlessly raise funds, which I found soul sapping. I mentored kids at a local high school, but then they graduated and the next crop wasn’t as simpatico. It was a disappointment.
4. It takes a lot of energy to have a social life. Once you’re out of the workplace, it’s eerie how the world can get along without you very well. Unless you have regular book club meetings, see the same folks at the gym each day, or get subscription tickets with friends, you have to keep making the effort to stay in touch. I’m gradually learning how to navigate this, but I wasn’t prepared for having to be this proactive.
5. Retirement is expensive and time-consuming. As soon as you step out the door, the tab starts to run. And now you don’t even have to step out the door as e-commerce makes it so simple to buy things right from your couch. I thought that without business attire and the dry cleaning that goes along with it, eating lunches with colleagues or commuting to work, I’d be far ahead of the game. Ha! Moreover, all those chores I somehow fit in nicely after hours or on Saturdays now seem to take up every waking minute. As Miss Piggy would say, “Quelle surprise!”
These are all small quibbles compared to the joy of doing what I love without raising my hand and having to ask, “May I?” Nevertheless, as I look over the list, that nap is looking better and better . . .
What has surprised you about retirement? How does the reality of it match up with your former expectations?