Last Friday marked the end of my employment in the corporate world (Linda retires at the end of May). It doesn't necessarily mean we will never work again, in fact, we are planning on it to help support our life on the road. That’s a subject for another blog post because today I wanted to share some thoughts about what I've learned about retirement in the few days I’ve experienced it.
When the economy was good and we were all laughing around the banquet table throwing gold coins at the jesters, life was full to the brim. For me, I was busy with a full time job as a graphic designer with some photography gigs on the side and an occasional video project. Add to that, the logistics and demands of three teenage kids and I realized there wasn't much time left for myself. I'm one of those people who absolutely has to have "me" time. If I don't, I get grumpy and when I get grumpy, nobody wants to talk to me. That's pretty sad but it's a fact. No matter what was going on in my life, I somehow made time for me. It was usually in the form of some creative endeavor like going out to take photographs or more low key things like browsing the Web or catching up on my reading, etc.
The problem is that when our kids got older and supposedly more independent, it didn't free up any of my time at all. No, there were actually more demands to drive them here and drive them there... I love them to death but I was pulling my hair out.
As we humans do best, I adapted. I did things faster. I crammed more things into an hour and somehow found that fleeting moment to recharge. It kind of reminds me of the promise of an easier life when a new faster computer comes along. You'll get things done twice as fast, you'll be more organized, you’ll free up time to do the things you really want to do. At least that’s what the commercials would say. What they didn't mention was that expectations would also rise. So now our bosses expected us to get twice as much work done in half the time. We did it anyway and soon the notion of being overworked became the norm. Did we ever reach our limit? Hell no, as soon as an even faster processor came along, we were producing more and more in less and less time. What's that burning smell? It's my fingers on the keyboard. BRB!
Why am I sharing all of this? By the second or third day of my retirement, the voices of my former life were becoming less and less apparent. Although I'm not working anymore, I still have a lot to do to prepare for our life on the road (including selling our house). But this time I didn't feel any sense of urgency.
There's a retired couple who lives across the street from us. I don't know them very well but we wave to each other once in a while. I was always a little envious of their slow pace. They are both healthy and (I'm guessing) well able to run but they choose to walk. The other day, while clearing my garage, I felt that same sense of calm. I was moving slower, I was being more efficient, I was thinking straight and, when the mail arrived, I slowly walked down the street to retrieve it. Hey, I was choosing this slower pace. Good for me!
It's my view that part of the success of a life on the road is to decelerate. Life must be savored like good wine. You must first let it breathe and then enjoy it slowly.
One of the parting gifts I received from a coworker was a gold-plated Cross pen. I’m pretty sure it was a metaphor for my new lifestyle. So, for a while at least, I'll let the rest of the world enjoy their super duper Pentium processors while I rediscover the ancient art of writing with a pen.
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