Thursday, August 20, 2009

So, What Do You DO All Day??

I’ve been retired for about 8 years. When I meet new people and reveal that fact I often get the same reaction from those who haven’t yet retired themselves – they will often be curious about “how is it?” or “do you like being retired?” Over the years I’ve come to a couple of conclusions about how to answer those kinds of questions.

First, I’ve found that it is important to note carefully the tone and wording of the questioner. Some people are intrigued in a positive way, and their question is motivated by a sincere interest in knowing all the fun/relaxing/fulfilling activities that they, too may look forward to when they retire. Others, though, ask the question more like “but, what do you DO all day?” – these seem to be challenging you to demonstrate that retirement isn’t just a boring way to pass the time until you die. They can’t seem to imagine a life without a career and are looking for verification that without one a person is pretty much worthless.

Second, I’ve learned that any honest attempt to describe one’s daily activities is almost surely going to sound like life is a string of trivial and vacuous events. But this is true at any time of life – retirement doesn’t necessarily change the superficial nature of the list. Indeed, I’ve sometimes wanted to turn the tables and ask “but what do YOU do all day?” Thinking back to my own working days, I’d have to list a lot of things I didn’t enjoy or feel fulfilled doing – many things I recall “having” to do and yet really disliking them very much, even though as an academic I had a very rich and rewarding career. And really, that’s a major difference – 90% of the things I do now I want to do.

Bottom line. Whatever you do all day, try to make your experience of it enriching and rewarding in a personal way. Note that my emphasis is on your experience, not on the activity itself. Even the most seemingly trivial thing can be rewarding if you freely choose to engage in it and if your mind is open to fully experiencing it. My answer, then, to what I do in retirement, is “I live every moment as fully and completely as I can. What about you?”


PaddleDoc said...

I find there are times I don't try and usually after that period I need a readjustment, maybe like the chiropractors do, though I've never been adjusted that way! Right now things are pretty good even tho what I did yesterday was polish my travel trailer. The experience of it was that I want it to look good and to preserve the finish and I figured out how to do it with less effort after a search on line and learning how to use the product I own more effectively. Could be vacuous, but it wasn't. Today, I'll finish more of it and take on that battery issue...and maybe drink a beer! So there's a retirement day for you!

Coleen Hanna said...

I'm constantly readjusting. First it was physical activity. Then arthritis hit. Then boredom. Then Florida. Then another move. And on and on. I think it will wind up as a part-time, "fun" job until disability sets in. But living each day, in the moment, grateful for the time after seeing too many people pass prematurely seems to work well.