Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What I’ve learned about retirement

Two years of retirement and my 100th blog post have me in a reflective mood.  Here are some musings on what I’ve learned in the first two years of retirement.

I was ill equipped for free time.  Sure, I’d been on vacations, and I generally didn’t work on weekends, but having a clean slate of time was something new to me.  Without the constraints of a job, I have to come up with my own goals and plans.  I generally have a list of things I want to accomplish, much like my working days.  But now, I don’t have too much heartburn if I decide to delay a task until the next day.  Now, I’m the one giving myself “performance reviews”.  I only have to please myself (and my spouse, of course).    So after a lifetime of busy, I am learning to slow down and soak up life.

Hanging with Joleen and Roby
Leaving your job, selling your house, leaving your friends and moving to a new city is a lot of change.  Generally I like change and seek it out, but this was a heavy load.  At first we were so busy remodeling my house that I didn’t miss my job, and of course I could easily hook up with my friends for lunch or drinks.  It was only after the house was sold and I moved 500 miles away that I realized what was missing:  my long-term friendships formed over years of working together.  Even today it’s a bit lonely living far away from these friends, but I try to keep in touch. And I continue to work on making new friends here.

Dinner with Emily, Maggie and Brian

Walking with Ruth along the river

With my sweetie
Living with your spouse 24x7 isn’t necessarily easy.  Style differences show up big time when you are together all the time.   I am a neat freak, and Mike doesn’t need a world free of clutter.  I like to complete my chores before playing, and Mike prefers to play if and when a good opportunity arises.  Mike is the energizer bunny and prefers to be busy all the time.  I need my down time to energize.  We continue to learn more about each other and are adapting to all this time together. 

Getting the photo...

I get to be creative every day, and I LOVE IT!  Every day I can choose a creative endeavor whether it’s writing, photography, beading, sewing, painting or some other DIY adventure.  And some of my happiest moments are when I’m using my imagination to create something new.

Making purses out of re-purposed jeans

With mom at the Cincinnati Arboretum

Spending time with family is now a wonderful reality.  For my entire working life I lived 500-600 miles away from my family in Southern Indiana and Cincinnati.  I got to see them on holidays, but I missed the daily life occurrences.  Now I can pop up at my mom’s for a quick visit, I can see my nephew in a cross country race, watch another nephew play baseball, spend time with my sister and her husband at an Irish fest or go to an art fair with my brother and his wife.  I can’t undo those missed years, but I’m so happy to be a part of the family once again.

Enjoying the Irish Fest with George and Pam

During my last 3 years of work, I traveled a lot to see my husband who lived in a city 500 miles away.  I am so happy that we are finally together in one city and one house, but I strangely enough I find that I miss the long drives.  I like the wide-open road.  Seeing the farm fields and small towns pass by helps me see the big picture and leave problems and issues on the road behind me.  So once in awhile Mike and I head out again on the open road...

I carefully watch my spending.  When I was working, I was fortunate to have money to buy what I needed when I needed it.  And I saved a lot during those working years, but I don’t necessarily want to spend it YET.  So I think very carefully about what I really need, and it’s actually very little.  Of course we have household, vehicle, insurance and food expenses, but I really don’t NEED much beyond that.  Of course I still like clothes, but now I need casual clothes and not expensive work clothes.  And living with Mike I am learning to re-use and re-purpose what we already own.

Enjoying California wine country
I don’t NEED vacation like I did when I was working.  During the long working hours, I needed an escape to an exotic location.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still love traveling and exploring a new place, but now it’s a WANT instead of a NEED.   And I still love talking about and planning a next trip, but I don’t feel compelled to have the next trip on the horizon.

Biking in Eagle Creek Park

Retirement doesn’t mean you will automatically start exercising more.  Whether working or retired, you have to be motivated.  And I’m not as motivated as I expected or should be.  I walk or ride my bike 3-4 times a week, but I know I should be doing more.  But similar to my working days, I find myself busy with other activities, and I don’t want to break away to exercise.  I’m working on this, and if you find my motivation, please send it my way.

Camping with Gretchen and Craig
I have more time for the important people in my life.  I have slowed down enough to listen intently and hopefully talk less.  I feel like I’m there for people more than in my past.  I remember my work mantra in the years prior to retirement:  “people are more important than tasks”.  What that usually meant was I would spend time with people while at the same time thinking and worrying about the tasks I was not getting done.  Now, l am finally living more in the moment and taking time for the people around me.

Tooth fairy cleaning bases.  Dream job?

I thought I might be employed by now.  I remember telling people I didn’t think I was finished working, and that I had more to offer.  I think this is still possible, and some days I really wish I could be contributing in a major way.  But you know I’ve become very picky about what I do next.  I don’t want to take just ANY job or volunteer opportunity.  My free time has become too important to fritter away.  It feels like I worked my whole life for this time in my life, and I want to savor it. And yes, I still keep my eyes open for that opportunity to make a difference. 

The label “retiree” is getting easier now.  I fought it at first, and it still can bring conversation to a standstill at a cocktail part.  It is my current stage in life, but it is only a label.   
Finally stripped of a work title and position, I am discovering and re-creating a new Diane.  It’s a bit scary at times like when I wonder where I’m headed next.  Or when people ask me what I’ve been up to and I don’t have an easy answer on how I spend my time.  It's not always easy, but I love this time of self-discovery and change.  And just maybe that's my own definition of retirement...


  1. Congratulations on your 100th post!

    Really, really enjoyed this post in particular, and can relate to so much of what you've experienced. I'm at a 'sweet' spot currently in my early retirement, but it's a moving target to be sure.

    And you know, 3 - 4 days of being active is pretty much the recommended dosage. Perhaps you don't need to add more days so much as just work a little harder the days you are already out and about. Sweat is good in that it is an easy indicator that you've increased your heart rate, leaving it stronger than when you began.

    And finally . . . I would love to share this post in my blog if you'd be so willing. I'd remove the photos, but keep the text, linking the post directly back to your blog so anyone reading it could find you. Let me know. :-)

  2. Tamara, Thanks for your comments! I appreciate your comments on the exercise approach which seems more practical than exercising more days each week.

    Also, I am flattered that you want to share this post on your blog. I would LOVE to have a guest post on your blog. Let's do it!

  3. Wonderful! I'll do so in the next few days, giving a nice lead in with a link to your blog. It's a wonderful synopsis of retirement I think others will enjoy. Plus you're funny to boot!

  4. Hi, Diane. I love your blog. I am only six months into my retirement and am still feeling the withdrawal pains after a 40 year career. My husband has not retired but he works at home, so I feel your pain! Good advice. I would like to share you blog on mine and if you get a chance, you can check me out at and one of my posts that you might relate to can be found here I have to say I am much better now thanks to nice comments from other bloggers, including Tamara Reddy. Anyway, I try to share my journey in a humorous way. Again, great blog. I am glad I found you.

    1. Rosy, Thanks for your comments. I'm glad you found you could relate to some of my thoughts about retirement and living full time with my husband. I read your "honeymoon-over" post, and I found it refreshingly honest. I understand those feelings of "now what am I going to do with myself". Maybe we expect retirement will be easy, but it's hard work. And I expect that how we spend our time today will change tomorrow. I am fine if you would like to share my blog in your own blog. Thanks, Diane

  5. Hi Diane,
    Nice to meet you through your blog! What you said really resonates with me as I am approaching retirement myself in only 2 weeks. I hope you don't mind that I quoted you and linked to your blog in my own post this morning. I can remove it if you prefer. Have a lovely day! Nita

    1. Nita, Thanks for reading my blog. I am fine with you quoting me and linking back to my blog. Good luck with your upcoming retirement and other life changes. I agree with your comments about not thinking about the change too much. Sometimes it's just better to move ahead and experience it.