What I Learned So Far in Retirement

by Charles Anderson

Proof's In the Pudding

I have a lot of notebooks. Boxes of them. Most people call them “journals”, but for most of my life I’ve scratched out with pen or pencil into notebooks or onto scrap-torn pieces of paper that I’d slip between the pages of said notebooks (yes, even the proverbial napkin) describing most of the ideas, thoughts, and experiences that found their way into this Rolodex mind I have.

If I were reading a book, I’d write down words I didn’t know in order to look up their meaning later. As a guitarist for the past 56 years, I’d write down lyrics or ideas for songs (played in a successful band for 16 years). If I experienced an event that moved me, I’d scribble a sonnet for a possible poem or song. I’d write down future projects, creative ideas, things-to-do lists.

For all best intentions I just knew one day these would be beneficial to me. I’ve cherished and protected them all these years as though they were the secrets to the meaning of life. I guess, in a way, that part is true… my life. With that said, I never wrote a single word or concept about retiring. But to my defense, who does that??

However, when I retired, I wrote a note about the lessons I learned from my years in the workforce. For those interested, I’m now going to write about the few lessons I’ve learned in retirement thus far.

1. Retirement is an adjustment.

I don’t mean that in a negative way, bit it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out what works. You can’t really practice being retired until you are retired, so the picture in your head may need to be redrawn a few times before you get it right, and even then an occasional tweak may be required. I personally tweaked my perspective within the last 48 hours and I’d like to give a shout out to a new friend who provided me this new perspective…

Thank you Jane Curtis!

2. How you spend your leisure time can change when it’s ALL leisure time.

Before I retired, a couple of my favorite pastimes were reading and armature photography. I figure in retirement I’d want to do more of the same, but surprisingly, those activities aren’t as high a priority as I expected them to be. When I was working full-time, I’d read a couple of books per month. Now that I’m retired I haven’t read a book in 10 months. I’m not sure why that is, but it could be I have less need to relax and decompress than I did when working. However, today I’m changing that and tomorrow I’ll once again get out the camera and walk to the library.

3. The idea of doing something can be more appealing than doing that thing.

Soon after I retired, I made a notebook entry of a few new hobbies I wanted to take up. Painting and writing for example. I bought brushes, paint, easel and watched a few You-tube videos. Created my first “masterpiece”. I enjoyed it but that was 3 years ago and the brushes, paint, and easel are now stored on a shelf in a closet. My point is this… sometimes things we think we’d do if we only had the time we don’t do even if we do have the time. Is it because we aren’t willing to put in the time to get the results we want? Possibly, but for me I think I lost interest because I lost motivation. Other aspects of retirement, such as loneliness, run interference. But I’m thrilled to say as of today I’m psyching myself up to start my second “masterpiece”.

4. Setting your expectations too high can derail your enjoyment in retirement.

This one may be a cop-out but one of those notebook entries include writing a book when I retired. After all, I wrote song lyrics for years and don’t forget all those scraps of paper and notebooks I filled with thoughts and ideas. Certainly I could write a book, right? I did write a very brief short-story for my great granddaughter once and the family raved about it. But when I tried to focus on a longer story, well, it seemed a lot more challenging than writing a song. Maybe I was afraid of failure. Not sure. In any case, today I decided to write this blog, taking smaller steps and it actually feels pretty good!

5. Doing something that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose.

It only makes sense that a basic human need is to feel that you matter and you’re adding value to the world in some way, whether that’s through sharing your creative gifts, doing volunteer work, or fostering relationships with people that matter to you. How we each create meaning varies, but the need to figure out what gives your life meaning, and to nurture it, is an essential element I believe.

There you go… my thoughts. To wrap up this blog entry may I say recent experience has taught me it takes less than most people think to change the trajectory of someone’s life. I know that is a true fact.

I would have never considered doing this 72 hours ago, then I discovered the Retirement-Online Community and read some personal growth stories, made some friends.

Proof’s in the pudding...

Comments for What I Learned So Far in Retirement

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Meaning and Purpose
by: Anonymous

Yours is one of the best articles I’ve read on this sight. Look forward, find purpose. Great advice!

I too am a lifelong journalist, also the family historian; keeper of the family photos and history. It has taken me a year beyond retirement, but I’m beginning to turn my piles of paper into a passion; compiling a family history book. It is both challenging and rewarding as I uncover the stories of our ancestors. The research is a treasure hunt to historical societies, libraries, and even cemeteries.

Doing my DNA has brought me to meeting new relatives and finding old photos posted online that I hadn’t seen before. It’s a fun hobby I would recommend. There are many resources out there to begin your research.

Wendy: I also do Genealogy on Ancestry.com and totally love it. Have found many family documents and photos, and also shared some. Kudos to you!

Don’t Look Back
by: Canadian Retiree

Thanks for your insight Proofs in the Pudding. I admire your habit of me keeping a life long journal. I wish I had.

Anyway I am retired a year now and my biggest lesson has been don’t look back, keep moving forward. One has to learn to adjust to a slower pace.

I remember all the days I got up at 5:30 am to catch transit or drive to work. I thought retirement was never going to happen. Now I am there and I kept looking back at my "glory" days of work life.

Kind of funny I would feel that way. I retired sooner than I had planned and had no retirement plan. I’m better now.

Although with the Covid pandemic keeping us isolated I’m adjusting again.

Hopefully we will get through this and life will return to normal. I can get back to the hobbies and routine I’ve found works for me.

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