Here I am, a full three months into what I’ve been referring to as “off career.” I can see that term becoming a bit cumbersome, so I’m trying to warm up to the “R” word. We’ll see.
At any rate, I thought it would be a good idea to take each quarter of the first year and do a little review. Taking a look in the rear view mirror as they say to see how things are shaping up. We can get so caught up in the daily rhythm and rhyme of life that we often fail to appreciate where we’ve been or where we’re going. This is an attempt to do just that.
Stepping away from the work-a-day world is a big step in anyone’s life. We’re programmed for so many years to do our part, make a living, build a life. We get up at the same time, go through the same routine, and generally, if we’re lucky, enjoy a few fruits from our labors. At some point, we decide (or in some cases, it’s decided for us) that it’s time to not do that anymore.
For my husband, Michael, and I, we had both reached a point where we were not getting as much joy or satisfaction out of our jobs as we always had in the past. The fire that had fueled our efforts for years was now nothing but a smoking ember. It was time, we decided, to move on.
So here we are three months into the no-longer-working mode. Being an introspective kind of gal (aka obsessive, analytical, gotta-figure-things-out), I want to make sure I capture the moments, the learnings, and anything else that seems worth remembering, not only for my own edification, but to share with others who might be considering or even experiencing the same path.
I came up with a few questions that seem to cover the bases. I asked and answered these questions below (with a few of Michael’s thoughts peppered in. It IS my blog, after all.).
What has been working so far?
The first thing I have to say is that the freedom I’ve felt is wildly intoxicating. Michael loves to say “Anything I want” whenever someone asks him what he’s going to do today or tomorrow. Annoying I’m sure, but giddily true. (Lucky for us, many of our friends and family have been there longer, so they’re patient with our newfound and obnoxious happiness.)
The freedom is so nice that I LOVE looking at my schedule for the week and seeing lots of empty space. No fear of loneliness or boredom here. Of course, there are the weeks when every day is scheduled, but even then, what’s on the calendar is my choice and has not been dictated by anyone else.
I still have to remind myself to slow down on weekends though, because I’m so programmed to “get things done” on those two days. Just this morning, Michael suggested a quick trip somewhere, and I immediately started naming off the weekends still available until he reminded me that we can go during the week now. Aaahh . . . that felt good.
What has been the biggest surprise, if any?
This probably sounds terrible, but I’d have to say that I’m a little surprised at how much I enjoy having Michael around every day. No kidding. He’s got his own interests and activities, so he’s out and about a lot. Or else I am. That’s key. I’ve always heard about the very real struggles some couples endure when retirement brings them too much togetherness.
I think the fact that we are both pretty independent and have our own interests is critical in this phase, at least for us. We also have several shared interests that bring us a lot of joy and new experiences together. Thank goodness.
And really, I like the guy. He’s still my favorite playmate after all these years.
Another surprise is how much I don’t miss work. I was always so invested in what I did, and so I expected to feel a bit more regret about leaving. The first week after my last day was when I felt a little melancholy, but once that passed, it’s never returned. What I miss is the people I worked with, but that’s easily remedied with regular chats or lunch dates.
Having this blog has been a great anchor for me. I knew I would need a creative outlet and structure of some kind, and the opportunity to have a forum to express myself was exactly what I needed.
What has been the most difficult to navigate?
Honestly, this blog. I’m still braille-ing my way through this whole thing – the planning, the schedule, the writing, the ideas, and certainly not the least of it – the TECHNOLOGY. Yikes!
I’m determined to not let it get the better of me. It’s good to exercise my brain in new ways. Right?
Even though there are challenges, I’m reminded of why it’s so important to keep trying new things as we age. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important things to do to maintain our health. Each time I’ve taken on some small issue and come out on the other side more knowledgeable and less anxious, I gain a little more confidence to keep trying and learning.
For now, my blog is my “new” thing. I’m hopeful with time, a deeper purpose will emerge. All I know right now is that I want to keep learning – about so many things, including my self, I want to inspire others’ dreams and potential, and I want to keep exploring and sharing with you what this aging thing is all about.
I want it all to be meaningful.
And the biggie – what have I learned?
More about my self, for starters. Without the intrusion or distraction of work, I’ve become more aware of some of my tendencies, insecurities, desires. I tend to move a little fast (ask Michael), talk a bit fast and with tangents (again, ask Michael), and then look back critically at my behaviors and too often feel regret (ask too many to name) for what I could’ve or should’ve said/done. I’m letting that stuff go . . . for the most part.
To slow down. Truly, this is a work in progress, but I’m becoming more observant (see above) of the time I take, or don’t take, for simple tasks or chores. Attempting to stay “in the moment” in order to relax and fully enjoy what I’m doing. There’s really no need to hurry so much. In slowing down a little, I’m practicing listening more, too – even to my husband (smile).
There’s time. Not to DO more, but to BE more, even to think more. It’s heady and delicious, for example, to read something noteworthy, and then to think or talk about what it really means. This quote captures one gem of taking time.
“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”
And, here’s a couple of incidental, teeny, almost-not worth-mentioning things I’ve discovered in this first quarter . . .
- I’m doing more laundry. What’s up with that? Seems since Michael no longer wears dress shirts and pants (which were sent out to the laundry and/or dry cleaners), he’s wearing more jeans and t-shirts. A LOT more. Geez.
- I’m cooking less. While creating more laundry, Michael was also more than willing to take on some of the cooking. Hallelujah! I’m what you would consider a basic cook, creating good-enough kinds of evening meals. My husband, on the other hand, likes to get creative. He pulls out a variety of cookbooks and finds new recipes to try each week. And he’s good at it. Truly puts my kitchen skills to shame. As I told friends last week, I’m really comfortable in my shame, and find it quite delicious.
There you have it. First Quarter’s Report. Some notable learnings, some casual observations. I think this first period may be what some call the “honeymoon period,” so we’ll see what next quarter brings.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll stay tuned. I would love for you to consider this your forum, too, for sharing any of your experiences or fears or advice or questions as we navigate these aging waters together.
Till next time,
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