But what’s it like?
I know retirement is different for everyone. But for me the sensation is like being weightless. Light. Timeless. It seems filled with infinite everything. Though of course I know intellectually that’s not true, the infinite everything part anyway.
Snowstorms no longer keep me up at night wondering how I’m going to get to work. Weekends have no meaning, in fact I rarely know what day it is. Time is both elastic, stretching out into the future and moving so fast that my old life seems like a movie staring someone else.
I feel a bit suspended, both in time between chapters in my life and way above the world just watching, as though I’m an archivist taking note of events that somehow have no direct impact on me. Which, intellectually I also know is not true.
A more solid answer, one that would have fewer eyes rolling, would be to describe a day in the life of a newly retired me. I’m sitting here in the breakfast room scanning in photos that my mom had stored in a box high in a closet for many years. They’re mostly photos of all of us as kids, school pictures, formal sittings for church photos, snapshots of random moments that didn’t make it into an album. I’m truly lost in time.
And I’m not at work in a beige cubicle. I’m not turning down loans, not arguing with brokers, not attending meetings, not pushing production. Not working weekends. Not commuting in rush hour. No, instead I’m sitting in a sunny room surrounded by the faces of my family. And my view from this work station is spectacular. Sunshine, brilliant white snow, birch trees, blue skies, puffy clouds. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am.
So what’s retirement like?
The truth is it’s indescribable. I guess you’ll have to experience it for yourself to understand, and I hope you all have that opportunity sooner than you think. Based on experience I can tell you it will be here in the blink of an eye.
And you’re going to love it.
I’ve been retired a month now. My hope before I left work was that time would unfold in the slow dreamy way summer days did when I was a kid.
You remember those days don’t you? Warm summer days when you got up with the morning light and lingered over breakfast, wandered outside later in the day, climbed a few trees, goofed off with neighborhood kids, stayed out late into the evening chasing fireflies.
Each day stretched out indefinitely.
Retirement started out that way. The first few days, perhaps the first week, seemed to last forever. Even now most of the day I don’t know what time it is, and that’s fine with me. And I’ve long since lost track of what day of the week it might be.
But time is speeding up now, just as my grandmother told me, years ago, it would.
Suddenly it’s Tuesday, another weekend ended, another week already moving along, a whole month gone since I last commuted to work. Midsummer and the 4th of July are right around the corner. Somehow a quick after lunch nap stretches into early evening, a few minutes reading on the deck out back and the morning is gone, check Facebook and the sun drops below the horizon without warning.
Time seems to be an elastic band snapping back at me with intensity, a pendulum swinging toward the future at increasing speed. The world seems to be screaming past, daring me to catch a ride, to fling myself up into the speeding vehicle moving toward something unknown. But I’m dragging my feet, hanging on to the golden sun, the misty mornings, the glowing fireflies.
I’m hanging on, trying to slow time down. Just for a little bit longer.
By now you all know that my mama retired. Whatever that means. It doesn’t seem to be about me so I’m not all that interested. But today I’m starting to figure out that life as I knew it is over!
First of all, mama was home all weekend, which is a little strange cause she usually goes to work at least some of the time. That’s my favorite time to nap and get ready for an adventure. When she gets home from work on the weekends we almost always go somewhere fun and she lets me sniff and sniff and sniff while she walks around sighing and daydreaming and stuff.
But this weekend was all rainy and we didn’t do anything exciting. Mostly she napped on the sofa. I bugged her a lot to try to get her to play but she was in some sort of coma, you know?
Anyway…today is Monday and she’s supposed to get up early, so I did my usual…and got her out of bed at 4:40 a.m. She did not seem pleased. But you know what she did? She just went out to the sofa and went back to sleep! Huh! So I went to sleep for awhile too. Then I woke her up again and she told me to go lay down. So I did though I was confused. This went on for some time till finally she got up and took me out and then we went back to sleep again!
And then she didn’t go to work!! She just hung around all morning! What’s with that? I am missing my princess nap! How am I supposed to keep up my princess looks without my late morning nap?
And then she took me outside and she started weeding!
Well! I LOVE weeding cause I get to be outside a long time with my mama and I get to bark at all the cars that go by, and the jogger, and my neighbor, and a truck, and a duck, and a rabbit, and my neighbor again.
After awhile my mama said I needed to go inside. But then she bagged up the garbage…so I just had to bark some more! Geeze mama, if you want me to be quiet you’ve got to sit down woman!
So anyway, I think my mama’s new full time job is weeding. She says we’re going to go outside every single morning and work on the gardens. Or she might just mow over the top of them. We’ll see.
I’m undecided if this retirement thingy is good for me. So far I haven’t seen any adventures come out of it; mostly I’ve just gotten yelled at for barking too much. I kinda liked it when she went to work, but I guess I’ll adjust. Maybe tomorrow morning I’ll wait till 5:15 to get her out of bed.
You think she’ll like that better?
Yesterday was a long and short day – the last day of work. I’m almost afraid to say it, afraid of jinxing it. But it was the last day of work…
People kept expecting me to be more excited than I appeared to be. Mostly I was carefully maneuvering through a lot of goodbyes, a lot of memories, a lot of great potluck food. Everyone else seemed more intensely excited about the event than I felt.
Mostly I just wanted the day to be done.
I don’t understand it myself. I should be happy in the New Years blowing noisemakers, wearing a silly hat, kissing strangers, reveling in confetti kind of way. But I felt more like the happy made it to the top of the mountain at sunrise on a solitary bike ride kind of way.
They made me a beautiful, cute card that made me laugh out loud. And they brought in food — breakfast and lunch! And lots of people stopped by, some people that I didn’t even know that well, to say goodbye and good luck. Shining in the eyes of many were their own hopes and dreams of retirement. Some people talked about their plans, some merely smiled and hugged wistfully.
I am so lucky. And I know it. There’s just a small slice of life when we’re young enough to plan and execute adventures, but old enough to appreciate that we get to do them.
For me that’s now.
Today is day 1 of retirement. A college friend called me last night to offer congratulations. She says we’re too young to be retiring, it was only last week that we all lived together in the dorm. Wasn’t it? She asked me what I was going to do today, day 1. I responded that I had no idea.
And that’s the beauty of it.
Suddenly the number of days in my countdown to retirement is one; tomorrow is my last day of work. It has been forever and just an instant all at the same time.
People ask me how I feel about retiring. Isn’t it exciting? What will I do with all that time? I understand. They’ve all been dreaming, just like me, maybe just like you, about that day when they too will walk away. Maybe they’ve imagined the moment for years and yet it seems unimaginable. Far away. Unattainable. I know how that feels, and I have to say I don’t really know how to respond. It hasn’t sunk in yet. Perhaps it will next Monday morning, but if today is any indication, probably not.
You see, I have today off. I know, it’s weird, but I do.
So last night I could have stayed up as late as I wanted to but I fell asleep shortly after 8. I could have slept the dreamless sleep of a newborn, but I tossed and turned and got up with Katie at 2 a.m. unable to sleep. I worked on the blog, trying to fix the Goodreads widget that broke several months ago. I spent an hour, long after Katie had gone back to bed, tinkering and only managed to get it back on the blog sort of twice with a bunch of HTML showing. It looks like it’s in the admin sidebar twice and I can’t figure out how to delete the wrong one. I hate this stuff. I went back to bed at 3 a.m. defeated.
Which would mean Katie and I slept in. Right? Of course not right. She was up at 5:30 exactly like any other day. So we got up. I did some dishes, put away some stuff from last night, read some blogs, took a shower. Watched the news. Noticed it was only 6:30 a.m. Hmmm. Puttered around a bit more then went up to the mall to walk. I figured I could walk awhile, then look for some shorts that I can fit into when the stores open. Buying new shorts sounds oh so much more sensible than losing the weight in order to fit into last years shorts.
I got to the mall at 8, thinking that it opened for shopping at 9 and I’d walk for an hour, find some shorts, then go to the post office to buy stamps as I knew that didn’t open until 10, and then on to the library to return a book, because the library doesn’t open till 10 either. And guess what? The mall stores don’t open at 9. They open at 10 too! What is with this retirement world? Every work day for years and years I was at my desk between 7:30 and 8 working on the next big problem. But the rest of the world dilly dallies around until 10?
Huh. I’m going to have to get a new sheltie alarm, one that doesn’t go off till 8 or 9 in the morning!
I walked for awhile, around and around the mall, then got bored and went out to the car to sit and read. By the time I went back inside the mall, shortly after 10 I was no longer motivated to find anything, so of course I didn’t. Mostly I was tired and hot.
I gave up, went home to the local post office which turns out opens at 9. Great. This retired lady needs to get her facts straight. Then on to the library which was quiet without kids, so different than being there on Saturday morning. Lovely. And now home to consider what to make for dinner. And it’s barely noon.
On the whole what I’ve learned after one half day of practicing being retired is that everything is more relaxed when you don’t have to fit it into the two (or less) precious days you have free each week. I feel less worried about wasting time, more prepared to sit and do nothing. Sure there are huge gardens overrun with thistle, and laundry piling up, a kitchen that could use a bit of elbow grease, a dog that apparently needs entertaining, plans to make for travel, closets to sort, basement and garage to organize.
But I have time.
And that, essentially, is what I’m going to do with myself after tomorrow. I’m going to enjoy having time. I’ll try not to make those of you still working too jealous.
But I can’t promise. Cause it’s going to be good!
I’ve been counting for a long time, even before there was a definite date. I’ve been counting down to a date I hoped would come some day, a date I’ve dreamed about for a long time. In fact I’ve dreamed about this date for so long I can no longer tell when I’m dreaming or living the truth.
But here’s the truth: A week from tomorrow will be my last day at work. At any work. The truth is that I’ve put my time in, met lots of great people, learned a ton of stuff and now it’s time to do something else.
Because life is short.
Hopefully retirement is long; I’d like this next week to move quickly, as time seems to be doing more and more lately. And then I want the warm summer days to stretch out slowly, the way they used to when I was a kid playing kick the can into the evening. I want to enjoy fireflies and stars, bike rides and camping trips, ice cream, and fresh strawberries. I might even enjoy weeding if I don’t have to get it all done during precious weekends.
So a new adventure is out there just waiting for me. So close. Five work days. Katie says my first priority should be entertaining her. I told her that she’s going to miss her afternoon naps and she should be careful what she asks for. On the other hand, I guess we could both indulge in an afternoon nap from time to time. I’m nothing if not flexible.
People ask me what I’ll do with all the time. I have a list in my head, and I remember my dad talking about how busy he was after he retired. He had business cards printed with his name and phone # on one side and the word ‘Retired’ on the other. I think I’m going to grow up to be just like him.
Can’t stop smiling. Change is not always hard.
Katie is excited because it’s the weekend. Me? Not so much; it’s just another work day for me. So when she wakes me up extra special early, even for a work day, I roll out of bed. The sooner I get to work the sooner, in theory, I can come home.
My mind wanders as I get ready for work in the darkened house, Katie gone back to sleep on a rug in the bathroom.
Did you know that it is possible to fall asleep in the shower? That’s why they invented those benches. Far better, I’ve found, to sit down than fall down.
And when did it get so hard to put on socks? I remember standing in the middle of a room on one foot, tugging a sock onto the other without thought. Now I have to place my foot firmly on the floor and lean on the bathroom counter to get a sock on. Better that I sit down for this too.
And wandering out to the living room, turning the TV on to watch the news as I eat my whole grain cereal I notice the traffic reporter is excited. About what I wonder, thinking of my commute. Turns out she’s excited because there are no traffic backups. Of course not. It’s 4:30 a.m. And I wonder why all traffic reporters are young, blond, thin and so very chipper?
And what’s with the weather guy? Do I need a countdown on how many minutes until the sun comes up? Who really needs to know this?
Maybe I’m just grumpy that it’s Saturday and I’m making a peanut butter sandwich to take to work. The better to avoid those vending machines that call my name when I’m frustrated.
No more delay. I’ve shared my snarkiness with you.
Off to conquer my emails.
Katie here. Mama’s busy working on that truck stuff so I figured I could get a little blog in while she wasn’t looking. Shouldn’t be hard, she doesn’t pay attention to me much anyway. She works works works and then she comes home all tired and stuff and doesn’t want to play with my pig or my cow or my elephant. I bring them to her and she doesn’t even realize until my dad tells her that I want to play. Good thing he’s around to make sure I get the attention a princess deserves.
I really want to go on an adventure with my mama, but all she will say is not now baby. Maybe the weekend baby. It’s almost summer baby and then we’ll go camping. Sure mama. Whatever.
So for now I just focus on doing my job. I let my mama know when it’s 9 at night and time to go to bed. I start huffing at her at exactly 8:48. I have to start early because, as I’ve said, she’s not paying much attention to me. I keep huffing and stomping my feet and if that doesn’t work I poke her really hard. That usually gets her attention. Then she checks the time and is usually grateful that I’ve reminded her to go to bed.
Once she gets settled in for the night I vigilantly watch over her for about 4 seconds and then I crash myself. My mama’s a big girl, she can sleep without me checking on her. Plus I need to get my beauty sleep you know.
Then sometime between 5 a.m. and 5:02 a.m. I make sure she’s up! Oh yes, I know her alarm isn’t set to go off until 6, but I’m saving her the stress of having to hurry in the morning. I can’t remember the last time that silly alarm even had to go off. She doesn’t need it. She has me!
As soon as I’m sure she’s wide awake, (sometimes I have to bark at her quite a bit to get her fully awake, and I find a good walk in the rain helps too), I go to my favorite spot, curl up and go to sleep. That way my mama can get ready for work without any interference from me. I’m thoughtful like that.
So anyway. Don’t you think she should reward me for all my hard work and take me somewhere fun? Soon? I think it would do us both good.
Yes I do.