At the end of June 2020, I celebrated ten years of retirement! It’s been a time for retrospection and also for looking ahead.
I remember so well walking out of my office. I was relieved to be done with achieving and striving to fulfill the multitude of expectations that comprise the work of a leader of an industry membership association with a mandate to advocate with the government for legislation and funding for child welfare. Fifty to sixty-hour work weeks were the norm along with hosting regular large meetings and conferences for members. Meetings with senior government staff and politicians were often held at 7 am. The job required a hectic commute to my downtown Toronto office, lots of travel to various parts of Ontario including remote fly-in First Nations, and frequent weekends away from home. I always felt in one rush or another to meet job expectations while trying to stay connected with my family.
How 10 years of retirement have flown! Except for a cottage reprieve each summer, there has been little time for idleness with more things to do than there are hours in the day. No danger of boredom creeping into my retirement! Finally, I had time to re-engage with friends. I pursued projects and hobbies (old and new). There were classes to learn how to knit, how to cook South Asian and East Asian foods and to learn knitting. Swimming, tai chi and yoga classes helped me stay fit.
Although I loved my work and enjoyed most days in the office, freedom from the competition and politics of career days came easily. I stopped wearing a wristwatch and setting alarm clocks except to catch an early flight or keep an important appointment.
Key Events during ten years of retirement
- A couple of years after I retired, my husband stopped his 2 -3 days a week consulting practise and fully retired. We learned to live 24/7 as a couple by changing our lifestyle and adapting to each other’s routines. In 2016, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.
- Our son married and we welcomed a daughter-in-law into our small family. The birth of a beautiful granddaughter in 2013 and a grandson in 2019, brought new roles as grandparents. Another generation was added to our small family with the attendant love, activity, noise and worry over little children.
- It took all of 2015 to decide it was time to down-size and move from a house with a huge yard and garden where we lived and loved for 26 years. Clearing excess ‘stuff’ also meant excavating memories. De-cluttering allowed re-living the best times and making peace with those not-so-good times. Taking several months to prepare our house for sale allowed time to imagine a changed lifestyle in a new place.
- Settling into a different and somewhat smaller house in 2016 was challenging; ditto for settling into a smaller community. It was a time to re-set, establish a new network, and find new activities.
- Thank goodness for lots of trips during the early years of retirement as mobility issues now impede my husband’s capacity to travel. We had European trips, riverboat cruises and winter trips to sunny destinations. I did a 6-week junket to South Africa with women friends.
- I am grateful for hip replacement surgery with a good recovery. Post-market titanium parts in my body pose no limitations except for admonitions against winter sports such as skiing and skating!
- In the months before and after retirement, I was offered various opportunities with consulting firms. I decided to make a clean break although I stayed with various not-for-profit boards. After a few months of going to board meetings in the city, I realized that I no longer enjoyed spending time preparing for meetings nor sitting in stuffy board rooms. I had done that through most of my career so resolved that I would not spend my retirement in meetings! I resigned from board positions retaining membership only on the City library board. I also resolved not to undertake any volunteer work that involved going to meetings.
- My commitment to writing this blog endured during ten years of retirement. Sometimes words come easily; sometimes sheer will is required to sit in front of a screen and write. A few posts have had months of long-tail views. Given that most non-commercial blogs have a lifespan of just over two years, it seems that postworksavvy is a survivor.
- Deepening key relationships, especially the intergenerational bond with my grandchildren motivated me to set aside time to develop close and satisfying connections. Providing support and nurturance for grandchildren is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. Likewise, I don’t take my friends for granted — I’ve lost too many because of early deaths.
- Throughout my retirement, I’ve focused on health especially sleep, nutrition, exercise. To my surprise, I learned to enjoy gym classes, aquafit classes in a saltwater pool, and regular yoga workouts. More than most things, I miss exercise classes since the pandemic closed my gym.
In these 10 years, I’ve learned that retirement comes in phases. The early phases brought the excitement of freedom — along with travel and new adventures. As I enter my mid-70s and my husband is in his mid-80s, we are in a phase where we stay closer to our home. Summer at the cottage brings a welcome change of venue as do occasional weekends there during winter months. We love attending live theatre and music concerts and look forward to resuming this practice when theatres and concert halls re-open.
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting better as ageing brings its own challenges. The mirror reminds me of my age as does my lower energy level. Planning for the next phases of retirement means a continued focus on maintaining health. Both my husband and I want to enjoy independent living for as many years as possible. We try to maintain youthful attitudes by spending time with young people to learn from their perspectives.
This phase of retirement means it’s time to get serious about telling my stories. A memoir is considered the last and best inheritance to leave for children and grandchildren. In fits and starts, I’ve begun to write family and career stories worth telling. When I think of my long-deceased parents, too often I find myself wishing I had asked more questions about their life decisions, their successes and their life challenges. I don’t think anyone in our family has time for my stories now, but perhaps there will be future interest.
Finally, it’s frequently said that retirement is one of the happiest times of life. Thus far, this is true for me. I’m free from the competition and politics of career with no pressure to get ahead nor answer for the decisions I make. When blessed with good health, positive relationships with family and friends, sufficient pension and investment income to meet needs and wants, many hobbies and activities, a happy and fulfilling post-retirement life is attainable.