Recently it occurred to me that I was closing in on six months since I left work and started my early retirement which honestly hit me with a bit of shock. Six months?!?! Really?!?! Already!
Perhaps why it snuck up on me is rather simple: I haven’t been remotely bored and I have to be honest that I haven’t been that busy either. At least in my head I don’t think of myself as ‘busy’.
What I define as ‘busy’ was that frantic pace that used to be my life versus now where I move a much slower pace and where I am calm and relaxed (most of the time). Previously at work there was this low level stress that didn’t seem like much at the time, but now I really notice the lack of it.
I think I under estimated this entire concept of detoxing from work after you retire. I thought because I wasn’t highly stressed from my job or I wasn’t ill from my work that I won’t need much time for detoxing but I was wrong. Instead of stress or sickness, I was very infected from work on having a certain level of productivity in my life. During my career it went like this: I had to do this project at work, then do this home repair project on the weekend, and then see these friends because it has been like six months since we saw them. And then repeat that almost every day. I had a standard in my head of what being productive meant and I didn’t realize how high it was until after I left my old job. So during the first few months of my early retirement I was concerned about my lack of accomplishments. What was I getting done with all my new found time? To be honest it wasn’t much in least in the terms I would have previously measured it.
I would have previously ticked off what I did in the last six months along the lines of:
- Finished a first draft of a novel
- Started editing a second novel
- Got this website back up and running (with help from friends)
- Read 45 books
- Watched over 15 seasons of TV shows
- Completed a online course on working at libraries
- Volunteered once a week at my sons’ school library
- Took a beer appreciation class and joined a beer club to learn more about brewing beer
- Brewed 24 L of beer and 86 bottles of wine
- Dusted off a very old hobby and started playing D&D again with a group for the first time in twenty years
The issue I think was I was so used to thinking in numeric terms that I failed to realize my biggest accomplishment during this six months of early retirement was adjusting to an entirely new lifestyle and changing my definition of ‘busy’.
There really is no road map for what to do once you leave work. Your time is now effectively entirely under your control and that level of choice is nearly overwhelming at the start. So I rather glad I had previously developed a ‘want to do’ list with things for me to do with my time after leaving work. Some were very easy items like take a walk around the park one day while others took a week or more such as taking a online course. The point was to get out of my usual life and specifically do things that I had dreamed of with my time.
Yet now I don’t recall the last time I looked at that list. It has literally been months. It is less important to me now as I have a bit of a rough routine to my week that I’m enjoying. But that list was useful as I continue to enjoy some of those little things that I can do now with my time. For example, a particular favourite item is going out for fast food breakfast. I can usually pick up a breakfast for less than $10 for me (and with a coupon my wife as well) and I like to do it perhaps once a month or so. The novelty of the experience is simple: I NEVER got to that during my working career and I really do enjoy the occasional breakfast out.
Now with this new lifestyle I am comfortable with who I am and I have this nice calm state and I finally feel ready to take on some more projects. I had previously avoided taking on too much for a while to let myself adjust to my new definition of being productive. But now I feel ready to outline a schedule on when to publish my first novel. I also want to do planning for some other big items around the house like the kitchen renovation and getting a plan together for adding a front patio to the house.
I’ve learned the world won’t end if I decide to be lazy once in a while and even for months at a time if I want. And in the end I learned that a good life isn’t measured in items done off of your to do list but rather in the content feeling of completing things that matter to you. Regardless of how minor or silly those items appear to others. This is your life so remember to live it for you and not what others think. I am an early retiree and now I’m okay with being that.