So how’s retirement? This is a question I get asked whenever I encounter someone I have not seen or talked to in a while. I always have to pause and think, how has it been before I can respond. To say that it has been what I expected it to be is patently false because I didn’t really know what to expect.
Just two weeks after my last day to work, I had back-to-back almost weeklong trips to the west coast, first to be with my daughter and grandson while our son-in-law was on a business trip and then to attend the wedding of one of my nephews. Then no sooner was I back that my wife flew out to the west coast to see our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. Upon her return, my wife came down with the flu, I came down with a sinus infection, and then the next thing we knew, it was Christmas.
But in spite of not getting settled into a new routine with all of the diversions, I did try to develop somewhat of a new schedule.
The first thing to decide was what time to get up in the morning. I must say it has been nice to go to bed each night and not set an alarm. A retired friend once told me that he had definitely caught up on his sleep once he no longer worked. I decided to just see what time I would wake up on my own. I found that having routinely been awakened by an alarm at 4:45 AM, that I began to “sleep-in” until sometime between 6 and 6:45 regardless of what time I went to bed. Since I have always been a “morning person”, this seemed reasonable.
I also tried to develop a regular exercise regimen. With cold weather preventing me from running outdoors (I don’t like the cold), I began to run at the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and then do weight/resistance training on Tuesday and Thursday. Although being sick and traveling frequently since retiring has prevented this from becoming a regular weekly routine, this is one of the most pleasurable new activities that I have started since retiring and I feel the most physically active I have been since a number of years ago when I weekly worked out with a personal trainer.
For the first time in many, many years, I have had the time each morning to read our local newspaper to stay on top of what was happening in our city. After I got home from the gym, I would fix my usual breakfast and sit down at my computer to read the paper on line while eating.
And of course I worked on my lists.
Before I retired, I had heard stories from wives whose husbands had retired that the husband needed to get out of the house to stop driving her crazy. I know my wife enjoys her alone-time and so those first few weeks, I mainly stayed upstairs in our house so she didn’t feel like I was invading her privacy. Turned out, this was not what she thought it would be like when I retired.
Having worked fulltime for almost 37 years, I decided to take the months of November and December off from any professional activities. It definitely felt like—and was—the longest vacation I had had in all those years. But then in January, I put myself “back to work” signing up for daily FDA e-mails to stay on top of how the Agency was regulating the pharmaceutical industry. I also created a USP account so that I could follow the compendial changes proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP, the organization that establishes drug quality standards). And I began a complete remake of the slides for my professional stability course.
Surprisingly, I haven’t had as much time to just sit and read as I thought I would have. Last year, I read more books than I ever had, partly because as things wound down at work, I had extra time to read at work. But now with several “to do” lists on my desk, it seems I am always focusing on some task to complete. Or with the extra free time, I am able to spend more time with my granddaughter.
I told my wife not long ago that it still felt weird to say that I was retired. Other than having unstructured, unscheduled time to do what I wanted, I don’t think I really had an expectation of what it would be like. A big part of planning for retirement was ensuring that we would be financially secure but planning what we would do with the extra time was more at the macro level of thinking about trips and visiting with family.
When my wife mentioned to me that the first several months were not what she thought my retirement would be like, I asked her to explain. Turns out, “staying out of her hair” was the exact opposite of what she had hoped. Spending more time together was what she envisioned. And since then we have done exactly that; going to the gym together, working on puzzles as a team, and talking about many other activities. There is a world of things we can do together and we will.
So back to your original question of how retirement has been, I now realize my hesitant response all along has been because when I would go to compare what it has been like to what I thought it would be like, I was stumped since I had no expectations. It wasn’t like comparing apples to oranges; it was like comparing apples to a black hole.
But now that I have had a few months to experience retirement, I would have to say it has been great fun! It has been most enjoyable to have the freedom to do what I want to do, pretty much when I want to. It has also been nice to know that I didn’t have to go into work each day and especially not having to fight rush-hour traffic. Sunday night when I go to bed, I am very relaxed knowing I won’t be returning to work Monday morning. While I do miss the professional interaction I have had working in the pharmaceutical industry all these years, I intend to continue to teach my professional-level courses where I can enjoy sharing my gained expertise.
After just a few months of retirement, I hope to continue to get to enjoy it for many more years. And the next time you ask me how is retirement, I can tell you just how much fun it has been!