As I write this morning, I am seated at my desk wearing pink fuzzy slippers, a long flannel nightgown, and my pink fuzzy robe. It is almost nine o’clock, and my bed hasn’t been made, the breakfast dishes are still in the sink, and I have not yet had a shower. Outside, I can hear the roar of rush-hour traffic speeding down Barham Boulevard. People are out there honking their horns and blowing their tops. Many of them are on their way to jobs they hate. No wonder we have road rage! I remember well when I was one of those people. By the time I got through with my morning commute (anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on traffic) my teeth were ground down to a nub.
Since Art and I sold our business six months ago, our lifestyle has grown more and more relaxed. We have reached the point where we are more like two little kids whose parents have gone away and left them on their own. Our grocery cart is a mixture of health foods and fast food, albeit healthy fast food. (We must make a grudging concession to our age). Apart from being vegetarians, we eat what we like, when we like. The clock holds less and less sway over our lives.
We have only one cat child, and he is portable, so we can go pretty much when we like, where we like. Henry is fond of adventure. He is particularly fond of hotel rooms. He likes to sniff at all the furniture and jump up on the king-sized beds.
I have heard people saying for years that if you retire, you will fall apart. (There are many variations on this sentiment, but it all comes down to pretty much the same thing). I’m sure that’s true for many people. I can only tell you that in our case, retirement agrees with us.
Maybe that’s because we’ve only retired from our jobs – not from the world. We still have projects, which give us meaningful work, but we work on our own schedule. Now we are free to pursue our dreams. We can work on our music, and I can write my blog every day. We now have time to be with friends. We also have time to work on our house, which we both enjoy. Generally, Art does the outside work and the mechanical stuff. I am the “interior designer” and the “domestic engineer”. I see our home as a big, blank canvas; a work of Art and Robin, always in progress.
We do have plans for making a livelihood from our work, and soon we will begin to implement those plans. But for now, we are on sabbatical. We are enjoying our well-deserved rest from the rat race, knowing that we will return to gainful employment in some form or fashion soon, but this time, on our own terms.
My advice for anyone who is considering retirement is to have a plan. You will need a financial plan, of course, but you will also need a plan for activity. In order to do this, you need to know yourself. You need to figure out how much energy you have and how much you want to expend. (Like money, energy is a currency that needs to be saved and spent judiciously). Dust off your old dreams that you might have had to put aside while you attended to more practical matters. Find a realistic way to put those dreams into action. Maybe you’ve always wanted to travel. Maybe you’ve always wanted to write your memoirs. Maybe you’ve always wanted to finish your degree. If you still need to make a little money, maybe you can incorporate your dreams into your financial goal.
I think retirement can be the adventure of a lifetime. And maybe retirement is the wrong word. Maybe there is a word that describes this phase of life better, like, “rejiggerment”. People think of “retirement” as something you do when you get “old”. I think of this as a time for rejuvenation. In any case, I wish you a happy “rejiggerment”.
© 2005, Robin Munson