Last week, as I chatted with one of my beach friends, she commented that retirement represents a last chance to create a life you love. She talked about her retirement journey and expressed longing for the day when her husband finally retires. She spoke of plans for relocating to a warmer climate to enjoy beach weather year round. Then she looked at me carefully and asked whether I was living a life I love — after retirement and, after moving last year.
Since the beginning of summer, I’ve re-united with many cottage friends who I haven’t seen since last summer. In conversations each one has asked about our progress in settling into our new home after moving but nobody asked directly about whether I was creating a life I love.
Regular readers of my blog have read descriptions of the highs — and lows — of changes in my life since moving. As I considered my friend’s comment and her direct question to me, I realized that I’m close to creating a life I love. My life isn’t perfect; there are always tweaks that may increase happiness, but these are lifestyle refinements and not major shifts.
Did this happen by chance?
Before moving, I imagined my future self as I prepared emotionally and psychologically for living in a new place. I visualized a simpler lifestyle in a new space that would be furnished with things I loved. Although de-cluttering and downsizing and organizing for a move was difficult, I believe I acted ‘smartly’ keeping only things that were valued. One year later, I realize that I don’t miss most of the things that were discarded or given away. There are a handful of things I wish I had kept but, overall, there are no regrets.
Moving meant leaving behind an established network of friends, a bevy of social activities, and a feeling that I had a ‘place’ in the community. I was determined to re-create a lifestyle that would satisfy needs for happiness and belonging in my new city. I made a conscious choice to live well in this next phase of retirement, and to integrate into the community. This meant forming new relationships, discovering new interests, taking some risks, and seeking new adventures.
I joined a full service gym near to our house with a good sized pool for aqua fit, a variety of exercise classes, spin classes, several gym areas including a ‘women’s only’ gym, and a variety of yoga classes to indulge in my habit of regular physical exercise. I also joined the local Newcomers club where I’ve met many other women who recently re-located. I re-connected with people who I’d known from the past. I took classes at the local library. I actively pursued new relationships.
The new gym felt strange at first but, almost a year later, it seems I’ve always gone there. Through Newcomers Club and other connections I’m involved in a walking group, book clubs, a knitting group, an investment club, and a bridge group. Social interaction is essential for happiness in retirement. It’s worthwhile to expend intentional effort to form and maintain fulfilling social relationships.
I also decided to explore creativity in new ways. Once free from the ‘settling in’ distractions I began making things to tap into my creative output and amuse myself. I looked for opportunities to integrate creativity into daily aspects of life by returning to hobbies I loved. Writing classes encouraged me to explore different forms of expression and helped me to meet new people. Interestingly two people who I met in a memoir writing course are now in two different book clubs that I attend!
Living a life I love also involves creating space for solitude. I am focused and strategic about how I use time as past experience has shown that I easily overfill my schedule. When I don’t have time for myself — for day-dreaming or just goofing off — I quickly lose perspective. Solitude allows time for the inner monologue that fosters imagination, new ideas, and ingenuity.
Paying attention to inner wisdom paid off in creating a new lifestyle. I feel re-invented, refreshed and renewed. Although it’s not perfect, for now it’s a life I love.