I had an interesting conversation with a neighbor, who hopes to move to his house here in southern Colorado in the next year or so. The kids are all finishing college this year and he and his wife have built a nice “cabin” near us, and far away from his many responsibilities as a business owner back in Kansas.
Besides the usual, “Have I saved enough money?” fears, my new friend is quite worried about how he will fare in his new life here. He is born and raised German Lutheran with an amazing case of Type A personality. In other words, he likes to be doing something most of the time, preferably something productive, and often pushes himself with deadlines, hating delays and uncertainty.
Now you might say, who does like delays and uncertainty? Don’t we all like to feel in control of our fate? The only problem is, we aren’t. When it comes right down to it we could all fall ill or die today. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Starting from that premise, what do I need to do today to further my own specific life goals?
I was also raised with that good old German authoritarian, “What have you produced today?” work ethic. Luckily I have also been given the wonderful opportunity to adjust to the idea of retirement very slowly, not all at once.
“What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.” – George Eliot
My husband Mike is my best teacher in this area. He had the misfortune to go from highly-skilled and productive engineering technician to Chronic Fatigue Sufferer in his mid-thirties. After many job losses and years of doctors and others not believing him, he somehow adjusted to the anger and frustration of having an illness that nobody seemed interested in defining or diagnosing properly. (New research!)
The long-term effects of CFS forced Mike to retire early. It also taught him to have more patience with himself and everyone around him. First it made him very angry, then CFS made him a better person. In fact I’m fairly sure we wouldn’t get along so well if he had not been changed so much through his experience with this terrible illness.
His patience and understanding provided me with the unique opportunity to change careers. At age 50 I started over as a freelance writer. After 25 years in the library profession, I finally gained enough confidence to believe that I could be a writer. With Mike’s great emotional and financial support I did what I had always wanted to do, but also feared. I could not have done this without Mike’s help.
That is why I now see ‘retirement’ as the next great adventure.
With love and support we can spend time finding out what it is we really want to try. What did you LOVE as a kid? What did you really want to be doing when you first went to work? You can do those things now. Sure it may not make money, but it could be lots of FUN!
Too many of us focus solely on the money issues surrounding retirement, and not enough on “What’s next for me?” Can I change? Would I like to be a more relaxed or patient person? Can I adjust to not producing something everyday? Can I change my focus to making life less difficult for others? Now that’s a good retirement goal!
I’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado. After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:
A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado
Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books! Cheers, Laura Lee (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)
10 thoughts on “Retirement: Fear or Adventure of a Lifetime?”
When I retired from a job I loved but was ready to stop, I decided to take each day as it comes. It helped to move away from my old life and start a new one in a new place. It’s been eight years since then, and now my only real problem is that I’m busier than I’d like to be. Since I like schedules and deadlines, I’ve given myself more than I intended. But I’m very happy, nevertheless. I hope your friend finds out what he’d really like to do. 🙂
Don’t get busy sickness DJan! I’m making a point of not signing up for too much, so I can occasionally spend the day doing whatever I please!
As yet another sufferer of the German Work Gene, I completely understand where you and your friend are coming from. In fact, I have watched my Mom and Dad both suffer with adjustment difficulty. To the point of arguing with their cardiologist over how ‘housework’ does not equal the total benefit of actual cardio workouts! I am hoping for retirement in five years, fingers crossed, and am making a mental list of things I hope to do that will ease the transition. Changing focus from ‘have to do’ to ‘want to do’ is right at the top!
Yes, that darn German work gene is killing people, I tell you! I have had to make a very conscious effort to turn off some of the voices in my head and stop being so demanding with myself. Since I have I enjoy life so much more!
What I always wanted to do was write…and I am doing that now since I retired….we are never too old to do something we always wanted to do or to have a new first time experience!
Me too, although I couldn’t acknowledge it for the longest time. Once I got started I could not quit…obviously!
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One of my favorite cousins could not enjoy retirement because he loved his work and missed it. What he did was cut back and vacation more but retire less. What ever works.
So true Haralee, we all find our best ways to enjoy life if we’re open to breaking a few rules in our heads! Thank goodness I was able to do that!
Now I know why i can’t get up in the morning and just hang around. I have to be productive 90% of the day. It’s that German heritage. Just kidding, I’ve
known this for years. My husband is part Irish, lucky him!!
Yes Beth, my husband has much less strict rules in his head so sometimes I follow his lead!