We’ve had an active year up until this week but, with nothing really noteworthy to share with readers since our trip to America’s Heartland, I thought it would be a good time to pen a few thoughts about retirement since we began Easin’ Along this path sixteen months ago. I will also observe my 69th birthday this year and, while I’m not sure if that adds anything to this assessment, my age undeniably factors into my thinking on almost everything.
In August of 2015 I called it quits. The decision to retire was complicated by only one thing…I enjoyed the job I had at the time. After almost twenty years as a small volume home builder, I had made a transition in 2008 to doing some home inspection work for both HUD and the State of Tennessee that eventually evolved into a part time position. While home building was rewarding in many ways, it could be stressful and often required long hours under all types of working conditions. The inspection work however was like a new burst of freedom. I was given a nice truck, a list of properties, and the enviable task of driving throughout the incredibly beautiful countryside of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina without a care in the world. Nevertheless, I had an itch to travel, and I was still in good health, so I decided to take my stepfather’s advice and see the world (or at least America) before I was “dragging one leg behind me” as he likes to say.
Three days after leaving the work force, Helen (adorable wife) and I took off on a five week trip (detailed in Easin’ Along posts) just to allow us to scratch the travel itch a bit and allow me to decompress a lot. I then returned home to a “Now what?” state of mind and proceeded to stare at the walls for almost two weeks when not peering into job openings posted online. I knew that there had to be more to retirement than this. Ultimately, those instincts proved to be right.
Now, going into a new year and sixteen months after hanging it up, I have drawn a few conclusions about life as a retiree and want to share my thoughts and am eager to have yours as well. Please know that these thoughts and conclusions are unique to me so I invite you to use the comments section below to add to or expand on anything you read here.
Things I Miss About Working:
There are things I miss a little and some things I miss a lot….here’s a few of the ‘misses”.
1. A regular paycheck. It wasn’t just about money. Every check was an acknowledgement of hard work and that every penny I ever received was earned. I always had a sense of pride whenever I was rewarded with pay for my efforts.
2. I miss friends I made through working. Over my many years of building homes, I met many incredibly fascinating people. Some were not well educated, but nonetheless very intelligent, extremely skilled, and always hard working. While a very, very few were perpetually adrift, most had the same hopes and dreams for themselves and their families as I did. The vast majority were simply good people and fun to be around. After the housing meltdown in 2008 I lost touch with a lot of them…very sad.
3. I miss being required to keep up with technology. As a home builder I was exposed to computer applications, used primarily for estimating and financial data, but most of that was done by someone other than me. When I was hired for inspector work, I was in a whole new world. I was hired online, given a laptop, a smartphone, about ten passwords, and required to begin and end my day on a computer. A year passed before I met my boss…we communicated by email or text. I had to catch up quickly and took a couple of weekend courses in MS Excel. In retrospect, it broadened my horizons greatly. I now work real hard to stay connected which is why I created Easin’ Along.
4. I miss being in daily contact people younger than me. My association with younger workers helped keep me abreast of so much of what was happening in the world today. They had a vast amount of information about sports, pop culture, technology, even politics. Admittedly, I was shocked about how much of their knowledge came from television and social media and how little came from reading, but that’s the world we live in.
5. In a small way, I miss the fact that Friday doesn’t mean as much anymore. I always looked forward to Friday.
Things I Love About Retirement:
1. I love that I don’t have to be in a hurry all the time. When working, I always seemed to be in a rush whether it was squeezing in a movie, a weekend trip, or another meeting. There was an endless and pervasive sense of being tugged in another direction.
2. I love that I have time to focus on what’s really important. My health is important – I had not participated in regular exercise in years. I now go to the YMCA four times a week. My faith is important. I am able to attend church activities and enjoy them immensely. My family is most important and I am able to commit time to them without worry of neglecting some work requirement.
3. I can explore things that have always interested me…and a few that never occurred to me. Rather than endure a class required by my insurance company on “ladder safety” or a corporate mandate to learn how to avoid harassment in the workplace, I can take a class on photography; write a short story; or learn about the history of blues music, an art form that previously wouldn’t have been given a second thought.
4. I love that I have the option to react spontaneously when an opportunity for fun or for learning comes along that is too good to pass up…I can grab it and go as we did recently by visiting friends in the mountains.
5. I love it that I have finally been able to shrug off all guilt about taking an opportunity to sit, do absolutely nothing, and savor the moment. As an old Tennessean once shared with me, “Sometimes I sits and thinks…and sometimes I just sits”. I can do that now.
6. I love that Monday mornings aren’t quite as frantic as they used to be.
There are still things I need to work on. I need to make better use of my newly acquired freedom and reach out more often to friends who are important to me. I’m an introvert with an intense dislike for the telephone and avoid it like the plague. Picking up a phone to make contact with someone is not easy. I try to have breakfast with someone at least twice a month, but that’s not enough. I want my friends to know that I haven’t cut anybody off…please stay in touch. I’ll try to do better.
I also need to be more supportive of worthy causes. There are plenty out there and lack of time is not an excuse I can use anymore. Again, I intend to work on it.
From the beginning of our weekly postings we said were embarking on a “Slow Walk Through the Golden Years”. In all honesty, it took some time to recognize what a beautiful walk this can be and adjust our pace in order to slow down and enjoy the journey. Yeah, we miss a few things about working, but believe strongly that slower is better, and that retirement is an awesome gig.
To summarize it all after the first full year, there’s no turning back now…we’re truly Easin’ Along.