About my life in Cuenca I’m often asked, “So what do you do all day?” I’ve come to understand that this is code for, “So what would I do all day?” I am now a few months into my second full year of retirement and would like to share some thoughts on the subject.
Retirement can be tricky. A lot of people work, work, work, saying they can’t wait to quit but having absolutely no idea what they’re going to do afterwards. So they continue to work, work, work because something, even if it’s spending most of your waking hours getting ready for, going to, doing, and returning from a job you find completely unstimulating, seems better than nothing.
But is it? Many of us fear the unknown, and it doesn’t get much scarier than staring into a void. Viewed from a different perspective, though, nothingness is a joyous place from which all creativity is born and all things are possible without restriction.
Remember when you were a kid? Anything you imagined could come true. Then you grew up, life happened to you, and perhaps you forgot how to dream. Or maybe you had dreams but they didn’t work out. Or did you just give up on them too quickly?
Retirement offers the opportunity to become childlike again, to see the world as new and exciting. Are you old enough to have memories of your mother telling you to “Go outside and play!”? That’s what Cynthia and I do many days. We have the slimmest notion of a plan or schedule and just “go out there.” People, events, and circumstances almost inevitably appear that add such richness and texture to our lives, but would most likely go unnoticed were we plowing ahead trying to maintain some frantic schedule.
I feel fortunate that I entered this period of life anxious to pursue interests both new and dormant. My degree is in journalism but my career went in a different direction entirely. Now at least I’m writing this blog and it gives me great satisfaction. Your support makes keeping it up all the more worthwhile.
I’m thankful to spend all the time I want on my health and fitness because as I’m getting older I find much more time is needed! It’s great to just sit and read for as long as I like. To only rarely be awakened by an alarm. To plan, shop for, prepare, and enjoy eating fun meals. And spending quality time with friends and really getting to know them is a special blessing.
I want to travel more. To paint and sculpt. To become fluent in Spanish. To improve my yoga practice. To learn to play the cello. Maybe even write a book.
So I suggest that the key to a successful retirement revolves around the answer to this question: are you running away from or towards something? A variation of the half empty/half full idea, one’s response sets both the tone and direction of the journey. If you’re hanging it up because you just don’t want to work anymore, then that’s the only motivation and it doesn’t much matter what’s next. Or so you think until you’re quickly bored to death (perhaps literally).
Maybe a quiet, simple existence is all you’ve ever wanted--great! But if so far your life has in fact “happened” with little or none of your conscious intention, and if there are some things you’d like to finally do, I encourage you to be that kid and dream again. Imagine the life you’d love to live. Then start living it. Today. Now.
Retirement can be our best or worst years. And each of us gets to choose. Even not choosing is a choice. It’s your life, after all, so make it count.
Have fun and be happy.