We were about five years into retirement when I started writing for a now defunct, on-line publication. My job was to write articles to inspire other retirees to visit the forum. Adjusting to retirement was still new. I had a lot to say and a lot to learn.
The words I wrote then can still be applied to today (although we have slowed our pace a bit) and what separates us from stereotypical retirees still holds true.
I recall a quote from long ago by a forgotten author who stated, “don’t let anyone else define your world, they will make it too small.” That is exactly the way I feel about retirement. The standard formula for retirement in my area of the country is to buy a house in a gated community, surround yourself with other retired people, play golf three times a week, nap the afternoon away and attend social gatherings in the evening. This is protocol from October through April when everyone will then head up north to escape the hot and humid summer months. Rinse, repeat.
Not having a blueprint to follow for retirement, we tried the predictable route for a while and finally realized that we were letting someone else define our world. And, indeed it had become too small.
After making a “not so graceful” exit from what we considered to be chains by that point, we began to think about who we really are and what makes us happy both separately and as a couple. We came up with a solid list of things that separate us from the “one size fits all” retiree.
Curiosity – we are naturally curios about a variety of things and enjoy learning
Passion – when we decide that something matters, we go all-in
Confidence – we are confident with our abilities and what we each bring to the table
When we broke the mold and started living retirement life from our own definition everything changed. Life “outside the gates” is an interesting place. Within the first year of our ‘revised retirement plan,’ we made new friends, got involved in several volunteer organizations and added biking, walking, weight lifting and dance classes to our exercise routine. We started traveling more and found great discount web sites for show tickets, restaurant coupons and hotels. We found free or almost free community concerts and art shows, made regular visits to our local farmer’s market and spent more time beach-combing. At home we completed woodworking and other home improvement projects and we rekindled our love of cooking together as we prepared everything from simple meals to elegant six course dinners. We began to clear clutter and excess from our living spaces. We connected with other active retirees via the Blogosphere and on-line writing groups. We joined a community garden project to learn to grow organic vegetables and attended cooking classes that promote healthy eating. On the more adventurous side, I went skydiving and zip lining with our daughter and I have plans to take scuba diving lessons in the near future in preparation for a cruise to the South Pacific. Rarely have we declined to try anything out of our comfort zone.
We have lived this somewhat free-form and very satisfying lifestyle for the past five years and are now ready for a new adventure. It will be fun to see where the tide takes us next.
Our brand of retirement won’t suit everyone, and it shouldn’t. Just like realizing that restricting our time to playing golf was not right for us long term, you will sort through options until you find what makes you happiest. Health issues, finances and changing interests will likely dictate many of your decisions. The tricky part is in realizing when to make changes. Not one of us wants to wake up ten years from now and feel that we have not fulfilled our dreams of retirement. If the time feels right, then it must be.
Life is good- smile at the future.
Ten years after this article was published and with a total of fifteen years into retirement, we are still smiling at the future. We are still guided by passion, curiosity and confidence, and we still have a willingness to adapt and evolve. Our current pursuits may not include skydiving and I never did become a certified diver, but we feel comfortable with our routine and emerging interests.
We read, cook healthy meals, play board games, and spend quiet evenings at the beach. I take a lot of photographs, spend hours processing said photographs, and I loosely maintain a posting schedule for this blog and my Instagram account. Malcolm tends our household finances, investments and fixit projects. He also spends time researching and scheduling future travel plans. We both make it a priority to visit with friends and family weekly.
A few months ago we added Pickleball to our weekly fitness routine. It is an age-appropriate game that gets us out of the house almost every day. We joined a group, but quickly retreated because the COVID risk was too great. Now that we have both been vaccinated, we have rejoined the group and are making new connections. It is a very social game which is easily learned. If it hasn’t already become popular in your area, it will soon.
That is a question that we ask ourselves routinely. We are never certain of the answer, since there are a lot of moving parts to this stage of life, but we remain engaged and enthusiastic. Much like retirement, but at an accelerated pace, this past year has been filled with adjustments. We know we will not fully return to the life we had, and that this new chapter will bring challenges. We are surprisingly okay with that.
For over a year, we have devoted ourselves to the Vosbikian B&B and the comfort of our two special guests. Our adult daughter and her partner have been working remotely from our home since March 22, 2020. I used to joke with a good friend that I would love to run a B&B one day. I now have a pretty good idea of what that would be like and am fairly sure it won’t be in our future. In all seriousness, it has been a good experience all around and has given this ‘lost year’ some much needed structure and significance. They have been the very best company and while we will miss them dearly, we wish them much happiness in this new chapter of their lives.
We will have about two weeks of alone time to adjust to being ’empty nesters’ again and then we are off on an adventure. Being fully vaccinated has given us a sense of freedom, but it also comes with a continued obligation to be diligent. This road trip has been carefully planned and although we expect to encounter challenges, we are optimistic that the risk will continue to decrease as more of our population elects to be vaccinated. We expect to do even more of this kind of travel in the coming months and years. It suits us well.
We have recently decided to sell our home of nearly twenty years. All of the things that made it a blessing during the pandemic also make it a curse for just the two of us. At some point a decision has to be made, so why not now. We will be listing with a realtor soon, and have some ideas about ‘what next’, but until a sale is imminent, we will continue floating ideas.
Our advice to couples just entering retirement is to be flexible and adaptable while creating individual paths and finding a balance that makes you both happy. Expect your lives to evolve and need tending. Talk about the future and how you see it playing out. Be proactive and open to change. The point of convergence will always be your commitment to each other.
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