By Regena Handy
People ask me all the time—are you enjoying retirement? It is usually people I haven’t seen in a while, people whom I know casually.
Its not an easy question to answer. Not with a short response anyway. But I’ve come to realize it’s a question similar to “how are you?” which here in our part of the world is simply a greeting. So most of the time I say “sure” just as I mostly answer “fine” to health queries.
Retirement is a tricky business. By the time most of us retire, we are simply worn out. We envision golden days before us basking on a sunny beach or finally touring the Grand Canyon. We see sleeping in as the ultimate prize and imagine hours curled before the blazing fireplace reading all those books we’ve kept pushing aside. If we’re lucky, we do all that and more.
I was fortunate as I was able to retire earlier than many people. Numerous folks asked me at the time, why are you retiring, you are too young, you have a good job, etc. I honestly had no answer or explanation for my decision, the timing just felt right.
One of my employees noted the reason would most likely be revealed to me eventually. And it was, for almost immediately I began several years of helping provide care for my mother, in-laws and oldest son prior to their passing. Had I still been working, I would not have had the opportunity to do what was needed.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while most of us plan for the obvious, there is much about retirement—as in all of life—which doesn’t follow the expected pattern. Most of us worry about financial security, pension plans, Social Security, 401ks, health insurance, and Medicare.
We start downsizing, sell larger family homes and move into smaller places or even retirement villages. Some become “snowbirds,” following the sunshine. I had relatives who spent many years traveling between their home in the north to a winter place in Florida.
In my case, it was the little things and unexpected happenings that left me unprepared. I didn’t really anticipate how small one’s world becomes when there is no longer daily interaction with co-workers and the public. The people I miss terribly, though not the actual job or its related stress.
A story about some folks I know might serve as a good illustration. It was shared by an adult child whose father had served in a supervisory position for a large company and wasn’t coping well with the change in retirement. After listening to the parents bicker one day, their child joked, “Dad, it must be hard to go from supervising 500 people to only one, especially when the one won’t do what she’s told, right?”
Most retirees have plenty to do and agree with the oft repeated refrain of “I just don’t know how I ever had time to work.” One person told me when I announced my pending retirement that if I had anything I wanted to get done, that I should do so immediately for I wouldn’t have time when I retired. (I think I can hear people still in the workforce saying “whatever!”)
Reading back over this, I realize I’ve possibly left the impression that I’m not glad to be retired. Au contraire, I am! But rather than saying I enjoy it (because circumstances have precluded that emotion to this point), its more that I am thankful. Indeed, I am very thankful.
Now, I’ve got to go make a list of all the things I need to get done today.