The New Groove

It’s been almost a year and a half since I left my job and just now I feel like I’m finally hitting my new groove to my life.

That might come as a bit of surprise to some people, but I would say honestly it really does take some time for you to adjust to your new retired life.  The reason is you tend to go through a series of phases when you retire.

The first is the most obviously: the initial high of being retired.  Let’s face it when you finally leave work after all that planning it feels fantastic.  Your walking on air and the world seems to be brighter and happier.  That phase can last anywhere from days to months or if your really lucky up to a year or so.  Then it wears off and while nothing has really changed you start to  think:is this all retirement is?

Ah welcome to being disillusioned.  The next phase of your retirement.  Here is where things start to go wrong and you often don’t know why.  I personally hit this phase in six months (as you can see here). It was a crappy place to be. You can feel unhappy,  anxious, lonely, and even in more severe cases outright depressed.  I personally never got that bad but yes I did hit a low spot there where I was seriously doubting my decision to retire early.  And yet oddly enough this phase of doubt doesn’t really get talked about all that much.  What causes it?  Basically you are missing things from your work life and you didn’t really understand how important they were for you life such as:  a structure to your days, work friends, a sense of contributing to something bigger than you, and even goals with feedback on how well you did on your goals.

Yet after that low point you have a choice.  You can give up and get a job again and return to something like your old life.  Or you can push forward to building your new retired life.  Here is where you start to make adjustments to your new life.  You can add new activities, more social interactions, and even more structure to your life.  You can search to do something you find meaningful and gives you a sense of progress on a goal.  And know this search might take some time but don’t give up on it.  Then finally after a time you will hit your new groove.

Which brings me back to where I started this post.  I finally have a bit of routine to my life that makes me happy.  I’m not bored or lonely.  I feel productive working on writing material for my book which matters to me.  I’ve finally built a new identity of the retiree not the worker without a job that I started at after I left work behind.

There is a long process to get to this point.  It doesn’t come easy and while it can take years to get to a new groove it is possible.  Just stay the course and give yourself some time.  After all, you are retired right?

So retirees, how long did it take you to find your new groove?

7 thoughts on “The New Groove”

  1. Have a read of this article: The meaning of life in a world without work

    Essentially you make your own meaning. Humans have always been doing that, work as we know it today is a new thing and can be replaced.

    The money side is the challenge and I suspect is why work has grown to supplant religion and community. As work uses so much of our energy we create a fiction it has characteristics that can’t be found elsewhere (beyond remuneration).

  2. For many, writing is a career (not retirement). I perceive what you have done as switching careers, not retiring. Being self-employed after being an employee is a difficult adjustment, largely because of the reliance on self-motivation and the distractions of working from home. You seem fairly self-motivated. Enjoy your new career and all the challenges it brings. But, to me, it’s not ‘retirement’ that you’re doing.

  3. Many thanks for this and your previous blog post! I recently semi-retired and am looking for a part-time job doing something I enjoy. Leaving my employer of over 19 years and moving out of state has been more emotionally challenging than I imagined. The first 2-3 weeks were great, and then I started thinking, “What have I done?” Creating a schedule for myself and joining a local group has helped. Knowing that others have experienced similar things is comforting and helping me to adjust . Thanks 🙂

  4. Great post Tim! You have addressed issues which are largely overlooked by most FIRE aspirants. I can relate to the “walking on air” which is like a prolonged dopamine release accompanying the realisation one is finally free of work….. then coming down from that to what’s next and what does it all mean? Who the hell am I if I’m not a “insert job title”.

    The more one has detached from the work identity and rested back into the real entity behind the story of who we think we are, the more one will be content ie happiness is internal and potentially needn’t change whether one is working or retired. The I am (before one’s name) is a much deeper place to be.

    After 15 months of following a similar path to your description and taking a much needed recharge, I realised what I missed was connection with colleagues, not the title of in my case “doc”. So I decided after much reflection that I wanted to RTW part time. 2 days per week has been about right. Now it seems more fun, more about giving back to the community and continuing to be able to perform at a high level as long as health allows it. So each to his/her own, it’s one to work out as you go. More spontaneous than planned perhaps…?

    Achieving “freedom” from work doesn’t itself change who we really are, nor necessarily of itself bring happiness. It does bring choices! And in that respect it’s great.

    Like you I’d be interested to hear how others have found it?

  5. @BG – Interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

    @Jim Stokes – You are allowed to think anyway you want. I personally don’t consider this a second career because I’m not working all that hard at it (I put in ten hours or less a week) and I don’t particularly care about making money at it (some would be nice but honestly I would be doing this in a completely different way if I was focused on money).

    @Michelle – You are most welcome….I keep writing this blog to hopefully help others through this transition because the topic doesn’t get much coverage out in the media.

    @Stan – Good for you. Part time work really helps a LOT of people and I wish more people would consider it. Thanks for mentioning identity…that is a big part of the change retirees face. Finding the new answer to ‘who am I?’

  6. Unlike other commenters here I retired gradually. In 1995 a company I worked for gave buyouts to anyone who applied, at least initially. It was too good to pass up so I went for it. Yes, I enjoyed the initial high. However, I didn’t have enough money to retire, so I worked on and off at temporary assignments. Having experienced retirement previously I looked forward to when these assignments ended. Finally I managed to save enough, along with making some good investments and called it quits in 2013. That’s a good thing because as I got older I found a lot of age prejudice, a lot of employers appear to want someone under 30 with over 40 years experience. The only change I would make to do it all over again would be to have got out of mutual funds earlier and into good dividend paying stocks and ETFs.

    Now to the present, I don’t ever recall feeling lonely or depressed with the freedom of retirement. I think that once you get over the worry of not having enough money and no longer have to jump through the hoops of trying to find a job everything else falls neatly into place and takes care of itself.

  7. How long did it take to get used to my new groove (or early retirement, which began 10 years ago)? About 10 minutes, Tim.

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