A friend of mine posted a vacation picture on Facebook and then made an off hand comment about retirement. He’s my age and survived the company purges that took me out a couple of years ago. I know the last couple of years have not been much for him. Working for a division with poor leadership and the inability to make decisions will suck the life out of you.
While the responses were overwhelmingly positive, there were those who offered caution about retirement. Someone actually described it as a trap. Having been out of the workforce for a few years, I would not describe my life as a trap. But it did get me to thinking.
I suspect one type that struggles with retirement are those who’s self worth is mainly tied to what they do. This might be more true for those used to being in a position of authority or control. Suddenly, you are no longer a “fill in the blank” and people don’t automatically listen to what you have to say. It is almost list having to create a new identity for yourself to replace the one that is no longer valid.
Personally, I think it is healthier to see yourself as more than your job but I understand why people might fall into that trap. We’ve put out a lot of BS around work ethic and that success only comes if you put in the time. Of course, that depends on how you define success. If it is endlessly chasing higher and higher positions for more and more money, then that is going to require significant sacrifices. And, having made those sacrifices all your life, I would imagine it is difficult when you no longer have that title.
Another type that probably struggles are those that need structure in their life. (This guy probably falls into this group) Work does provide that. For a certain number of hours per day, you don’t really belong to you and you must surrender yourself to a daily planner and a succession of mostly useless meetings and a to do list of tasks that are all important and critical.
Then, the rest of the day is likely spend running around doing all the things you couldn’t do because of work. If you’re really unhealthy, you probably check email at the end of the day to see what is waiting and then wonder why you can’t sleep at night.
Take that away and suddenly each day is a blank canvas. What to do with all that time? Again, for me personally, I love the fact that the majority of my day is free for me to fill in as I please. Now, there are some things I do to make sure I’m not spending all day every day in front of my computer. It isn’t a rigid schedule but I like to work out between 9AM and 10AM so that sets up at least one period of time where I know I need to push away and go do something else. Other times, it takes a little more discipline like saying I’m only going to spend x amount of time of this particular activity. But it varies. There are just days (even in retirement) when you need to listen to your mind and body and just do what others might see as time wasters.
But if you know you need and prefer structure in your life, there is nothing stopping you from creating a daily plan even after you stop work. There are certainly ways to adapt. The key is knowing who you are and what you need. I’m one who lives in the slow lane and I can generally find pleasures in the small things so this life has been very good for me. Certainly not a trap.