I've been semi-officially retired now for two months, and, in internet time (like dog years) that makes me an expert on the subject. I wrote here about waning client work foreshadowing retirement, but the reality of actually being retired is very different than I imagined.
Since almost 100% of my adult life was structured around employment, I experience a mental "whoa!" each dawn as I realize the day ahead is free of all work obligations and worry -- in fact, free of any expectations whatever. It's a little like those brief breaths when the Roadrunner charges off the cliff but still treads air -- reality takes a moment to catch up before he plows into the ground with a thud. I still feel as though I should be doing something productive -- that all this leisure time is somehow slothful and I'm going to have to pay for it sooner or later -- that I'm treading air and facing the big thud.
I don't for a second regret my decision to chuck it in and retire, but I'm not too sure exactly how to do retirement, and I've been unsuccessful in finding any relevant answers online.
As I wrote in the above blog posting from last March:
"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."My house is packed with materials from various artsy hobbies I've explored over the years and those fill time; my new iPad keeps my brain ticking and that fills time; deciding whether or not to publish my children's books fills time, especially with the seductive new digital opportunities; domestic duties and doggy attention fill time -- but the question still nags me -- shouldn't this last, best part of life be more than just "filling time?"
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."
Maybe I'm just too task- and goal-oriented to know how to live without working. Maybe I've confused "working" with "life" and now that one's gone, the other doesn't yet know how to stand on its own little feet. Or maybe there's a natural timeline necessary for adjustment from one state to another and, as usual, I'm rushing the process -- one more example of an Aries so eager to reach the destination that I miss the journey -- although this particular destination comes with a headstone.
All the articles I see on retirees (except those referencing the poor eating their cat's food) show toothy, silver-haired couples relaxing with a cocktail on a veranda that overlooks a lush golf course or enticing spa, or taking sappy photos of one another in front of an ancient monument, with their cruise ship in the background. They must represent the few couples who managed to safeguard their investments from the last two stock market crashes and somehow retain the value of their property. I suspect, however, these depict simply the cannabis-induced dreams of a copywriter/illustrator living in the glorious past that included a richy-rich retirement. Today's financial reality for the "99%" doesn't approach that luscious lifestyle.
I've believed for a very long time that we create our own reality and future through our thoughts, wishes, dreams and persistence, which philosophy has proven true time after time in my life. It's exactly this truth that I find a little scary, a little alarming. What will my future look like if I can't define my dreams and thus have nothing left to achieve? Treading air, even if it's very comfortable and secure air, isn't my idea of how to spend the next 25 years.
(Or maybe I just want to return to France for another extended visit and can't right now. Hmmm...)
If any of you, my dear intrepid readers, have any thoughts, I'd be thrilled to read them in the comments.