I never realized retirement would be so difficult. The form that shows my Social Security history, shows employment since I was 12, a mere 54 years of working. I guess I’m used to work. I watched my father and father-in-law after they retired and they never really seemed to enjoy it, not like I thought they should. While my dad got to watch more TV and in fact discovered he liked The Simpsons, this was taken from him as his eyesight failed way too early. My father-in-law had been an avid gardner and I thought he would continue with his garden and enhance it, but that soon was overgrown with grass and weeds, favoring long walks with his dog in the woods whenever he could get to his camp in Crossville. I don’t know who said it but someone once said retirement is not for the weak and while I must say I’m really just into it, I’ve been having trouble sleeping and getting comfortable in my own skin with the prospect of endless days ahead of me without purpose.
Without purpose; what a powerful sediment and statement. Now I know I’ve purpose. My wife Monica relies on me and together we have plans for travel throughout the country, see all the things we’ve always wanted to see and revisit some beautiful places we’ve lived before. My kids I’m sure want me to hang around a few more years to help and guide them through some of life’s tough spots and good ones too. My sisters, I’d love to spend more time with them, but that’s not the issue. It’s something else I can’t seem to put my finger on, sort of a mourning, a physical loss one experiences. I don’t think work identified me; rather work gave me the opportunity to express and explore many talents and ideas, learn from and teach others, grow with the community of workers who for the most part make up the force that drives this country. The thought of not being with that group, of performing as a bystander and observer, is the part that I find disturbing.
There are plenty of things I can still do to alleviate these feelings. There are plenty of volunteer jobs that I will explore when the time comes to sell the coach and plop down in some apartment or house again but until then the idea of travel and exploring will fill the void that work used to occupy. I guess the real issue is how I see retirement. I don’t see it as it being as important as work and that is something I need to change. It has to be viewed as something more than work, a gift, a reward, something much more pleasurable than feared. It’s almost as if I want to deny myself the enjoyment of retirement because of my work ethic. That in fact, may be the underlying unsettling feeling I’m experiencing, that of my own denial of enjoyment. Retirement is seen as an end where it is really just another stage and if you’ve been prudent and resourceful in your work and saved or planned then you can enjoy your retirement years. And we have, we have income and medical coverage, and for the most part we are healthy. So I guess it is really wonderful to have something as trite as a bit of unsettled feeling about these retirement years to worry about. Monica and I really enjoy our time together. This portion of our life would be so miserable if we were or lived “separate” lives. I was speaking with a gentleman not a few weeks ago about their retirement and traveling. He said there is no way they could stay in each others company all the time and that he had his section of a garage where he could go and hide and she had her room.
This would be an essential part of a successful retirement. If not already alone then retirement with a partner who shared your life’s dream and with whom you were comparable enough to get along even when getting along is difficult. We seem to have this and it is especially trying or can be if you’re living as a full-timer in an RV traveling around. Space is tight and many things are so different that you’ve really got to have a trusted team-mate and partner to make this lifestyle enjoyable.
I ended my contracting position with the state in June, just a month and a half ago. I guess like starting any new endeavor I’ve got to give this style of living a few months or years to truly be able to evaluate this stage of life. But I will admit again, like starting school as a kid, I’m a bit unnerved with the days that are stretching ahead of me but ready for the challenge.