I'm not complaining, mind you. I've worked since I was 16 (part-time for my parents) and that's plenty of years for anyone. Retirement is an odd and difficult transition to make, though, when one's life has been defined by work.
As a single mom of two back in the days before single parenthood was a normal and accepted state, and deadbeat dads weren't prosecuted, my job had to come first or my little family would have become a sad statistic. I was audited by the IRS for deducting child care long before it was legal -- and won the case. I spent far more hours at work than I did being a mom, but somehow the kids became successful adults and great parents themselves -- more than a minor miracle. (Or maybe a statement that they did better without me micro-managing their every move -- teaching a kid independence isn't a bad thing.)
After battling and clawing my way up the corporate ladder (a woman in a strictly male industry, before equal rights was the law), I still had to be better than every other manager. Okay, they were all men so it wasn't that hard...but still...it meant longer hours, far-less-than-equal pay and very few of the perks the male managers enjoyed. (So what if I wouldn't have played golf, rafted down the Rogue River or vomited breakfast vodka on a deep-sea fishing trip -- I still wanted to be invited!) The day I resigned, threw my company car keys on the controller's desk and walked home was the third best day of my life. Seriously.
Starting a new business in a new profession with new skills but no experience and no potential clients was NOT a piece of cake -- but within a month of initial marketing, there I was -- truly "in business" for myself -- the fourth best day of my life, especially since I worked from home in my jammies. That was 17 years ago and my original client is my one remaining client -- the rest were given governmental incentives to convert to mandatory new technology. Thanks, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. My own taxes paid to eliminate my own business -- oh, the irony.
I now have to make a real adjustment in letting go of my overactive, compulsive, pain-in-my-ass work ethic in favor of trying to transition to retirement. There's very little real advice online in doing this. The "advice" columns are so basic and contain such obvious and banal ideas that "duh!" is the only possible response. "Learn how to budget your reduced income." "Volunteer your time." "Garden." "Exercise." "Spend time with grandchildren." "Read." "Start a hobby." "Take a class." "Travel."
DUH! Thanks, anyway -- I was looking for something a little meatier -- like, how not to be seduced by trashy daytime TV, or how to make the kitchen literally disappear except at regular mealtimes, or what do you do with all these empty hours if you hate to shop, or how to avoid the constant temptation to add to your Kindle collection, or how not to go blind reading blogs all day, or how do you squeeze another trip to France from a non-existent vacation fund? You know, the really important retirement issues.
As I said, though, I'm not complaining. In fact, I LOVE:
- Having time to write without checking the clock every 15 minutes.
- Having time to actually market what I write.
- Having time enough to do everything that must be done in my life, with a lot left over to just do nothing.
- NEVER having to answer the damn phone for work.
- Cheering the day I unplugged and packed away my fax and discarded very old computers and software manuals.
- Having time to actually learn how to use my cell phone
- Knowing I'll pay only itsy bitsy taxes on teeny tiny business income.