A Year End Review

It is common in December to look back at what was achieved in the past year.  At work, that is often in a year end-review.  Of the life side, many of my friends send out a Christmas card year-end summary filled with their family’s (often kids!) life doings.  I love getting those notes but have never felt able to craft one since my life was always so work-focused.  It never seemed like I had enough to compare…who wants to hear about getting a project through the red-tape at MegaCorp!

This year was my first full year of retirement and therefore provides a unique look at “what was achieved”.  And so you, my blog readers, are getting my year-end review!  A little bit like work (yes, still thinking achievements!);  a little bit like life (working on that more life/less work).  And yes, I know – I’m retired, you would think I could have found time to do it before my Christmas cards went out, huh?!

Recall I wrote about three phases of retirement transition – Let it Go, Let it Be, Let it Begin.  As I look back, I realize I have entered the 3rd stage of transition – Let it Begin.  And that it took me 16 months to get into this third stage from my retirement date. (For any of you recent retirees, I have heard from many that this is not unusual.)

Looking back at the last 12 months, I accomplished more than I thought, as I never really felt busy!   I was able to help my mom out in her post-surgical recovery, take a first-ever sisters & mom vacation, start up my LLC, take multiple classes (from writing to computers to life coaching), and spend multiple weeks at our beach cottage.

Since a large part of the year was in the Let it Be transition stage, I noted that I reflected deeply on my transition, read a lot of blogs & books (up to 28 books now!), worked through a personal innovation process (articulating values, strengths, and interests), and crafted a Life Vision & Action Plan.

I have started activating many elements of that Life Vision & Action Plan. I began writing a blog, started a mid-week foodie club, tried on antique dealing (not for me!), began morning journaling (loving it!), and committed to a weekly hike and weekly Zumba.  For a never-before exerciser, this last one is a big deal!  Hubby & I increased our theater-going and arts & craft festival attendance (part of our “we” activities).  I was conscious in reaching out in relationships with both professional networking and friends connecting – with more coffee, breakfast, lunch and happy hours than I can count!

It was a year of cognitive restructuring.  Realizing a day without a full schedule is OK and a full day of meetings is not a sign of success. That errands do not need to be held for the weekend and mid-week shopping I can be amazingly stress-free. And, less work & more play can create a very fulfilling week.

Things I’ve learned?  It’s hard to drop the should, hard to become a beginner, hard to let go of the past (where you had an identity and clear measures of success), and hard to trust that doors will open as you go down a new path.

Looking ahead, besides continuing many of the plans started like the “out & about” focus (both fun with friends and time with hubby), I want to build in unleashing my creativity (jewelry making and more writing) and restarting taking adventures with some “big vacation” planning.  I need to continue to watch the “work creep” with my LLC projects.  Work is easy, and can quickly take over my days.  Not really new-year resolutions, but definite new year plans!

Did you send out a “year-end report” to family & friends? Take some time as the year ends to think about the direction your life is heading?  What did you conclude?


Picture Credit: Pixabay


Learning How to Play

I want my next stage of life to be “more play and less work” which means having a strong understanding of how my Leisure / Hobby Life Domain will come to life.

Recall I’ve written about 7 Life Domains in thinking thru retirement transition.  When I created my life vision using these domains, initially the Leisure/Hobby life domain was almost empty.  My preretirement life was 90% work focused!  What exactly is leisure?  What hobbies could I begin to develop?  It’s a bit frightening to realize that at age 50+ I have no idea how to play!  Part of me needs to overcome the strong Protestant Work Ethic I was raised on – working hard is practically part of my DNA! Taking time to play was just not something I’ve really ever done. So I needed to learn how to play.

In true researcher fashion, I have done a deep review of what is Leisure, Hobby, and Play.  Leisure (play) is a wide area and is not independent of activities that would fit in other Life Domains, like Health & Wellbeing. I have also found that leisure is about “doing” – whether that is passive doing (reading, eating, watching) or active doing (walking, swimming).

Here are some of the categories that can be considered Leisure/Play with some examples (not an all-encompassing list and yes, one activity can hit a few categories).  Leisure can be:

  • Creative Expression – Personal Artistry: writing, painting, making music, dance, jewelry making, crafting, cooking, etc.
  • Physical Activity – Exercise & Beyond: walking, biking, hiking, SUP, tennis, Zumba, golf, dance lessons, running, cardio work out, strength training, martial arts, etc.
  • Intellectual Stimulation – Learning New Things/Skills: chess, birding, cooking class, architecture, new language, study mysticism, astronomy, learn to swim, learn to sail, OLLI, etc.
  • Social Interaction: book club, bible study, dining out, happy hour, team sports, etc.
  • Solitary Relaxation: yoga, journaling, reading, crosswords, coloring books, meditation, gardening, etc.
  • Spectator Appreciation: art gallery walks, theater, following sports, craft shows, movies, etc.
  • Travel Experiences: stay-cation activities, big trip travel planning, vocation vacation, RoadScholar, etc.

I found this exercise quite helpful!  While this approach might feel a bit absurd to many, I really did need to learn what leisure was.

As I think about my Life Plan to fulfill my vision of less work-more play, I am consciously building in time on many of these leisure activities/pursuits.  I am choosing ones that fit my vision of living an active lifestyle, as well as my passive interest areas of observing art and playing with words.  In some of these leisure activities I am very much a beginner; in some I am experimenting with the activity – “trying it on”.  I am finding a lot of enjoyment in learning how to play!

Un-knot the Nots

I am not working.  I am not giving back.  I am not exercising every day.  I am not busy.

Every single one of those statements is often met with a negative response from others.   What do you mean, you’re NOT.   If you’re not, then you are …. lazy, a sloth, morally weak, a drain on society, going to vegetate on a couch and die an early death. Yes, sloth is one of the seven deadly sins!  I am definitely not being the “good girl” I was raised to be.

Yes, I have heard all the arguments for why I should be continuing to work in retirement for mental stimulation and connection. Work is connected to worth and identity. It’s not socially acceptable to not be working if you are a healthy, capable, relatively young person. Only if you are an unpaid caregiver – that is one marginally acceptable not-working arena.

[A British friend living here in the States informs me this is a very American thing. She also is not working (outside the home) and consistently gets strange looks as well, which she says is the cultural Puritan work ethic coming out!]

I have also heard the arguments for why I should be focusing on giving back to bring me life satisfaction.  And why I should exercise every day for longevity.

In today’s society, busy is a sign of achievement and importance. It’s not socially acceptable to not be busy. Multi-tasking is the norm.

But it is the “should” word implied in all of those responses that gets me. I grew up on should.  I should be the good girl and not fight with my siblings. I should study hard & get good grades.  I should graduate with honors and get a well-paying job. I should work hard, adjust to the Company work style, and climb the Corporate ladder.  I should be a feminist and a role model to other women.  In many ways, I’ve done the should my whole life. Being the good girl, I have abided by most of society’s expectations.

Now, I don’t want to. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to give back. I don’t want to exercise every day.   I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy.   Maybe I want to live my terrible twos’s over?   After all, I am in my second year of early retirement!

I do want to learn how to play.  I do want to connect to friends and have fun.  I do want to be active. But I also do want to have time to slow down and enjoy things.

And so I am exploring possibilities and trying new things. I am taking the time every morning to write in my journal.  I am actively going out & about, to various events in town, to stimulate my mind and have fun experiences.  I am meeting up with friends – for coffee, dinner, happy hour, and walks in the park.  I am enjoying an afternoon reading a book.

And trying to find internal acceptance, if not societal acceptance, of not working, not giving back, not exercising everyday, and not being busy.

What is my purpose?

So many of the retirement books talk about living your life’s purpose, leaving behind your legacy, and making a difference in the world. In many cases, a satisfying retirement is said to be dependent on articulating and then living according to your life purpose.   Every time I read about purpose, or hear a speaker talk about life purpose, I get a little bit sick to my stomach.   I feel like I won’t meet life expectations if I have not identified my life purpose …and even with a lot of reflection, I have not been able to articulate my life purpose!
One way recommended to figuring out your purpose resides in answering the question “what have you always wanted to do?” What is your passion? What moves your heart and engages your mind so that time just disappears?   Some people are lucky and know their passion from an early age.  They “always wanted to” fly kites, collect baseball cards, or make music.  Some find their passion later in life, but it’s similar so by the time they reach retirement transition, they know – I want to be a yoga teacher, make quilts, take pictures, spend more time volunteering with animal rescue, make a difference with teens, have a food truck, climb mountains & ski down them, learn about European history, or take care of my grand-children. (Yes, every one of those passions is a person I know.)  So I’ve done the deep introspection, and nope, never felt a strong desire to do anything.  No childhood dream that was never realized. No passion burning below the surface today. I’ve even checked with my Mom, my best friends, and even my oldest friend for insight – nothing!

Another way recommended to figure out your purpose is along the lines of “saving the world”. Where do you want to be making a difference for your family or community? Which volunteer organization best fits your interests?    This assumes of course that giving back of your time is a core value.  If you don’t feel the need to give back, are you doomed?  Or just selfish and immature?
I explored other words for purpose to see if they offered help: life meaning, life fulfillment, personal mission, true calling. I tried (unsuccessfully) the exercise of writing my obituary on what do I want to be remembered.   And then there was the advice of “don’t worry, your purpose will find you”.    Still waiting here….
My Ah-Ha Moment — My purpose right now doesn’t have to be “save the world”… it can be “live an active healthy lifestyle”.  In retirement I will finally have time to get a life that is not all work and no play.
For me it came down to creating a life vision of who I wanted to be. And then working on a portfolio of activities/pursuits that are important to me, focusing attention on what I love doing and those I love being with. When you have a sense of the direction you want to head (my five year vision), you can set goals and choose activities/pursuits that move you towards that direction. Then you live life in a way that proclaims: “This is who I am”.
I am no longer wasting time searching for my singular passion or my life purpose. One might emerge over time, but even if it does not, I have come to realize that a meaningful life is one that is lived according to one’s values, utilizes one’s talents, and leaves this world (whether that is family, friends, work place or community) in a slightly better place from me having been there.
And so, no great life purpose. But I hope my blogging about insights on Retirement Transition is perhaps leaving this community of readers in a slightly better place, in a small way!


Picture Credit: Pixabay