A few months back a fellow retiree imparted to me his rule of thumb that it takes about a year to totally make the transition from the working life to retirement. I reflected on this a while and eventually came to agree that there is an extended period of adjustment when one retires. In my case though I put the transition period at about 8 months. It was only after 8 months that I noticed the little niggling voice in the back of my head had finally shut up about the immorality of not going off to work in the morning while still collecting a pay (cum pension) cheque every fortnight. It wasn’t a sudden quietening of the voice; rather, as the months went by it just grew weaker and weaker as I built a new lifestyle and developed alternate ways of keeping myself busy. From this I am surmising that it takes me about 8 months to work 30 years of routine out of my psyche.
I suspect that I have now gotten to the point where I would have problems returning to full time work for reasons that I will discuss below. So given this state of affairs and the fact that my first anniversary of retirement is coming up, it seems a good time to have a look back at the past year and see how I’ve arrived at this state.
The passing months have given me a new perspective on my working life. I can now be honest with myself and admit that my striving for a satisfying career was always a bit of a chimera. I wasn’t all that interested in a career trajectory; in reality, any career trajectory I may have had was coincidental to my drive for a rewarding salary. My only interest in climbing the career ladder was financial. Certainly career and monetary reward don’t have to be mutually exclusive but in my case climbing the career ladder necessarily meant moving over from a largely professional career to a management career.
I liked doing professional work as an economist but in the public service there was only so high I could go before managerial duties began to encroach. This meant the usual management hassles like keeping staff/supervisors happy, budgeting, general paperwork, etc etc. I did it, as required, although there was little of interest in it for me.
But as Cat Stevens sang: Sometimes you have to moan when nothing seems to suit yer.
Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, however. I learned some important things about myself over those 30 years that I need to keep in mind if I am to have a fulfilling retirement. Importantly, I learned that I thrive on organisation. Spontaneity is fine every now and then, and an occasional adrenaline rush can be invigorating; but chaos doesn’t suit me as a lifestyle, too erratic and inefficient for my liking. So even though I am retired I still require a weekday routine.
I should also explain that I am fine with chaotic weekends, I may even prefer them. This dichotomy may be my mind’s way of keeping weekends mentally separate from weekdays because I still think of weekends as I always did – a recovery period from a hard work week! I make no claim that this makes any sense.
Anyway, my typical weekday is split into a morning and afternoon session, much as a typical working day is.
A routine which would fill up the morning half of my day was pretty easy to figure out, particularly as I am not a “morning person”. I need to slide into the new day sloooooowly. For me a satisfying morning is one where I get up in my own good time, say around 8 a.m. Morning ablutions are then followed by a cup of coffee and intense manipulation of my iPad as I catch up with the overnight news and North American Facebook postings. This ritual occupies me to about 10 a.m. whereupon I am sufficiently awake to get ready for my morning gym class.
My morning gym class not only benefits my physical health but is also good for my social life as it is an opportunity to engage in chit chat with my fellow gym goers. I am not an extrovert so just this little bit of social interaction is good enough to carry me through the rest of the day. After gym it’s a stop off at the grocery store for supplies and home for lunch.
It may not be much but I have gotten so rapt with my morning session that I now consider it to be a sacrosanct tradition.
The afternoon session is for dealing with all those miscellaneous things that arise in one’s life like running errands, housework, yardwork, doctor/dentist visits, tradesman appointments, attending interesting public forums, etc. Blogging fits into the afternoon session. Usually I can find a nice compromise between writing a blog posting then re-charging my creative batteries with some physical work that simultaneously allows me to conceive and develop my next blogging topic.
As I stated in my post of December 2013 I have a ready list of DIY projects so that I won’t feel at a loose end and panic myself into looking at contract work again. This project list is a “living document” which has seen items drop off as they are completed and new ones added.
Some of the things that I managed to complete and drop off the DIY list were:
- Digitising my slides and family video tapes;
- Hiking in the Blue Mountains;
- Planning our 25th wedding celebrations (which was a 3 course smorgasbord of a family weekend trip to Sydney to cruise on the Harbour, a night of celebration with some 25 friends and family and a romantic 9 day trip to Tahiti); and
- Joining U3A (University Third Age)
Recent additions to the list were:
- The “ever popular” research and planning of upcoming trips, including a 5 week sojourn to North America with my daughter later this month and a road trip when my brother visits Australia early in 2015;
- Heavy winter cutback of the backyard trees;
- Sydney’s City2Surf Marathon (My wife runs it. I saunter through it.); and
- A second undertaking of the Sydney Great Coast Walk (see my post of May 2014).
Also high on my list is to delve more deeply into this whole blogging thing. Even a cursory glance over some of the blogger sites out there drives home the fact that there is so much more I can do to immerse myself in the blogging experience and become a seriously active member of the blogging community.
With all these things planned out it would seem that paid work is ruled out for the foreseeable future. It’s probably a moot point anyways because Australian Government cutbacks mean contract work is going to be in short supply for the next few years. That’s ok because I so despise Australia’s lying Prime Minister Tony Abbott that working for the present government would be akin to selling my soul.
If we’re talking theoretically though, I wouldn’t rule out undertaking paid work at some point in the future but it would have to fit within some pretty rigid boundaries. As I stated above, my morning regimen is sancrosanct which leaves only the afternoons to commit myself to paid work. (Nightwork is totally out. Just too enjoyable going out for dusk walks, watching TV and surfing the net.) As well, I have gotten quite comfortable with the way I’ve done up my writer’s corner. My wife is not enamoured with it but that’s not stopping me from thinking of ways to further spruce up our home office into a suitable man cave.
Getting back to the point: contract work \would have to be sufficiently flexible to allow me to do most of the work from home. So that barring some sort of financial catastrophe which forces me to re-enter the workforce on a full time basis, the scope of projects which would entice me back into the working world is narrow indeed.
And so it is with these thoughts that I begin my second year of retirement – a lot more comfortable with the idea of retirement than I was this time last year. Heck, these days anytime I sign an official document which asks my occupation I no longer blanch before writing down “Retired”.