Another American Dream - Retirement
I’m Retired – Now What?
Retirement is one of the most ubiquitous American dream, and more specifically, early retirement. Gone is the cantankerous boss, the numbing commute, the wasted time sitting in boring meetings, the office politics, or the need to get up at 5 a.m.
Retirement means doing your own thing, lazing in bed until the sun is high up in the sky, perhaps frolicking with your spouse, walking on the beach like in the commercials, drinking fine wine at sunset. Idyllic new life. You’ve worked for it, it’s now your turn. And by golly, you’re going to do your best to spend it all, and die broke.
Finally, you will have the time to read all those books you’ve been accumulating over the years, brush up on history, study the life cycle of orchids, play with the grandkids. Finally, your greenhouse will enjoy your talent as a green thumb. In fact, you will now have time to volunteer at the farmer’s market on the weekends, since you won’t be bringing files home anymore.
Bliss. Freedom. The chance to travel.
A two-sided coin
There is another side to all this tranquility, and its name is futility. Along with the need to no longer get up at the crack of enjoy the smell traffic fumes comes the very real notion that your input is no longer necessary. The greatest decisions you now have to make is what to eat for dinner. If you found your position as manager of a department, now your department consists of your spouse, who may not be all that pleased to carry out your, ahem, orders. In fact, you may well have to consult with your spouse about things. Whereas your colleagues may have called you sir, now it might be something less exalted. No matter, you think. It’s still worth it to be free of the responsibility, the crushing details, the unreasonable higher-ups. True, but now there are no requirements, no deadlines, indeed, no goals.
If you find yourself already in a retirement that is less than the satisfying transition you expected, or if you are close to reaching that grand stage of life, be aware that depression is a real possibility as a consequence of inactivity and lack of participation. There are steps that can be taken before the sense of futility sets in, before a life of pointlessness spreads its heavy blanket over you.
What Are Your Interests?
Whether already retired or close to it, make a list of other interests besides work. The most obvious might be your children and grandchildren, but I’m suggesting that your interests involve personal pursuits that do not depend on other people. If you have always loved the theater or cinema, consider studying it formally in college. Indeed, consider auditioning for a production, taking acting lessons, public speaking lessons, or simply participating as a stage hand. Consider your field of work: Is it something you can teach others? Could you approach the local college to create a class in your field? How about putting your knowledge into a book that you will self-publish? You would be surprised how much interest there is in something that you consider pedestrian. For example, hundreds of thousands of books on dieting and weight loss have been written over time, and yet, new ones come on the market every single day. One might think that there is no more space for yet another diet book, yet there it is, the latest “take” on dropping 40 pounds in two days! Take a chance. Write it down. If you are not a professional writer, hire someone to ghost it for you. Put an ad on the college bulletin board.
If you love the symphony, why not volunteer as an usher at performances? Not only will you have access to enjoy the show, you will be among people.
Part-Time Work For Fun and Profit
Consider applying for a part-time job. One of the jobs I held as a teenager was waitressing at La Crèpe, a lovely French restaurant on Wall Street. I had the lunch hour only, and worked Monday through Friday, so my clientele comprised the businessmen and traders of the neighborhood. We were required to wear uniforms reminiscent of Heidi of the Swiss Alps, and we all looked as cute as dolls. But what I loved about that job was that it kept me slim from all the running, and it challenged my brain to remember the orders, the tables, and the special requests. Not to mention the money! It was such a hoot, that I promised myself to follow my heart in retirement and do the same thing. I would find a quirky restaurant with a theme, and would wow them with my outgoing personality and vitality.
Traveling in Retirement
I’m not a big travel fan. The thought of battling the internet to find the very best deal, then packing, going to the airport, changing flights, arriving on foreign land with different road signs, different rules, different languages, not to mention living out of a suitcase, all for the measly sum of thousands of dollars, simply does not appeal to me. But if traveling is one of your deep desires to do in retirement, by all means, surround yourself with all the aids at your disposal: from using a credit card that gives frequent miles to considering being a courier or volunteering at Elder Hostels, the organization that combines educational programs with travel. Why not learn how to be a tour guide, and then parlaying that knowledge into your travel plans.
There are many options in retirement. Consider them all. Make lists, consult with disinterested parties, consult your family, but don’t allow time to simply rob you of your energy. You have too much to live for.