I woke up this morning (a good thing!) thinking about retirement now that I have reached my one-year anniversary and realized I am still learning how to be retired.
My first observation in the wee hours - retirement is like starting a new job. New employees don't start out as the expert on Day One - it takes time for them to figure out the "corporate" culture and how they can maximize their position and contribution within their new surroundings.
Because I am a researcher/analyzer type of person, I naturally spent many hours digging into other's comments - written or spoken - on how they "do" retirement. Like the new employee, I took to heart most of those comments and felt pulled in many different directions. I pulled back and hid out for awhile (thankfully no one fired me!) and feared I would fade into the woodwork permanently those first few months. This morning, I read an article about introversion - one of those "13 ways to make the introvert in your life feel loved" kind. Thank goodness these two blogs together finally shot a dose of realism and clarity into my blood stream. Made me look at how I was loving the introvert within my own skin!
Without the distraction of a busy work schedule, I have been embracing my introversion in a way I feel I couldn't while being the best in my work of choice. Work pushed me into social situations where I learned to be the extrovert social diva to promote and educate and market - all at a cost to my energy and motivation to do more and more. Fortunately, these times were balanced out with my other tasks that tied me to the computer, working within my comfort zone, writing and crunching numbers! Ah! Balance!
Take me out of the "have to" scenario and I flounder - like a fish out of water! Give me eight months and I finally figure out I am not a fish after all! The guilt surfaced - how my social activity was being sidelined, even avoided at times. Wise words (some of them mine!) reverberated in my head:
"You need friends - girlfriends, couple friends, casual friends and especially face-to-face friends."
"Get involved in the community. Volunteer. Bake cookies. Go to events."
"Go to the local coffee shop and meet people. Walk up to a table of seniors with an empty chair or two and ask if you can join them."
"Walk around your neighbourhood. Talk to people. Get to know their names."
Can I just say that some of this was great advice and some of it was even great advice for me, but some of it (go to a coffee shop!) made my throat constrict in terror!
My moment this morning realized that my happiness quotient goes up when I stay true to myself, being authentic within my own heart. I have taken up solo types of activities like painting and writing to my heart's content. Learning to paint works - joining a class gives me the kind of beneficial social connection I love while I pursue my creative side. Joining a writing group puts me in a whole group of introverts! Knowing this even encouraged me to venture out and make my first meeting with them a lunch in a restaurant before I had even met one person! Volunteering looks different for me than the cooking, baking, kind that I think many of my advisers had in mind. I volunteer at the local art gallery, meeting and greeting complete strangers but in a setting that houses one of my passions - art. Instant conversation starter plus I can capitalize on my "being in charge" character from years of management.
Social activity is very important, but it looks different for everyone. Just like the many home choices (style and location), travel ideas (mode and destination) and financial situations (frugal or on the edge!) differ from one to the other. Retirement is not a destination but a continuation of the life you started sixty or so years ago - true to character with lots of room to grow and explore and finally with the time and opportunity to relax into it.
Retirees don't morph into something they are not, but for this retiree, at least, they continue to become who they really are. Free time opens up the opportunity to explore some of those neglected corners of a busy, working, parenting life and infuse light, life and colour back into them. I was a child who loved to create, read, write and hang out with a few special friends. I am again that child - just a little wiser and freer to pursue all of this and more!