How to Have a Contented Retirement
Every big life change calls for creative reinvention. Aging is a beast. It’s also a privilege; too many friends died too young to have the chance. For many of us, retirement brings new freedom in how we spend our days, while new limitations constrain our choices. Time to reinvent.
First a couple of caveats. Loss is loss; grief is grief; pain is pain. I don’t for a minute suggest that living fully means constant happiness, or that people with clinical depression can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. One person’s path may not be another’s. That said, here’s what works for me just now.
Identify a passion or two, something that engrosses you so deeply the rest of the world goes away. A sphere deep enough there’s always more to learn, try out, plan, discover, and create. Mine is exploring history and unfamiliar places. One friend’s eyes light up when she talks about fostering puppies. For others it’s gardening, landscape painting, or campaigning to combat climate change.
Forget about balance, unless you’ve found a balance that already suits you. Otherwise, let all the routines and unavoidable nuisances fall into the background. Deal with the crap—computer crashes, raccoons in the attic—and then flip your mind back to your passion. Let it fill you with such joy and excitement there’s no space for anything else.
5/22/2023 08:09:48 am
Good advice as always, but for many the word "retirement" doesn't fit any longer. People are healthier and live longer. They switch to something new with the same or more energy as before, so that may not actually be "retirement." We've merely "switched up" to something new.
5/22/2023 09:16:29 am
Agreed - and for writers, the projects can come and go with no particular date that counts as career end. Also, this blog post is about both job retirement (new freedoms) and physical aging (new constraints), which may or may not go hand in hand. When queried on Medicare forms etc., I list retirement date as when I quit writing and editing for educational publishers, which I did to earn a living, and began just writing what I felt like - historical fiction, polio eradication, blog - regardless of whether it paid.
5/22/2023 10:35:26 am
Great advice and very well said!
5/23/2023 10:37:08 am
Thanks, Peter. What's your passion these days? Still racing and cars, especially from 1940?
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.