Friday Firesmith – Retirement: Two Years Deep

My first Project Manager committed suicide with a shotgun. After three years of retirement, he couldn’t connect to his new life, and couldn’t reconnect with his old life, either. For the first six months of retirement, he would show up at the office about nine, go to lunch with someone at the office, wander back in about two or so, then leave at four. Our secretary finally told him to leave one day, go find something to do.

I was sick the first two months of retirement, went back to work for another ten months, took care of my dying girlfriend for three months, and it’s been nine months since then. I had a hernia operation in July, but there’ve been no big events in my life since then.

For years I wondered if I had the time to write, if I would, if I could, and while writing is never easy, it was easier when I had to write well with a limited amount of time. It was more precious to me, that time I wrote, and the scarcity of anything determines its value.

 But I have learned there are some Great Truths about retirement that have to be learned, and in doing so, there is freedom.

The first is Keep Moving. Exercise your body and your mind. Don’t sit around the house waiting for something to happen. Get out there and make it happen. Go to the gym, go to movies alone, get on a plane and fly to a place you’ve never been before.

Another is Time is Different Now. Don’t rush, don’t get in a hurry to do anything, especially writing. I’m rewriting a story I started a while back, and now I have time to write more background into characters’ lives. I spend more time with the dogs now. I spend more time walking in the woods. No longer under the gun to get things done to go back to work, I stand and look at the world longer, and notice more.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is this: It Does Not Matter. Being impatient with people in traffic, or in restaurants, or in the store, is a dead end street. If you’re happy with your life, those outside of it, short of knifing you with a Bowie Blade, can’t affect you. If the waitress screws up your order it does not matter. If the cashier cannot find the price, it does not matter. If someone ahead of you in traffic snarls the entire highway, so what?

Losing someone you love takes a lot out of you. Losing that fight, losing a battle you knew damn well you were going to lose, no matter what you did, is a lesson, not a lie. Retirement is losing you, who you were, your career, your life’s work, and facing that, releasing it into the past, is a battle you have to fight, and if you win, you get a new life, and a new you. It’s every bit as difficult as your first day on the job, and it’s every bit as exhilarating.

I could triple the length of this essay, easy, but there’s no need. I’ve said everything there is to say. You will either get it, not get it, or find a path to understand why you have to let go.

I wish you well. You can do this. It’s an incredible life.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

26 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Retirement: Two Years Deep”

  1. “Mañana, mañana, mañana is soon enough for me.”
    I can go to bed when I feel like it, get up when too.
    Put off anything (except the bathroom) until later.
    An easy habit to acquire, soon the hours slip on by.
    Then weeks, months, as the downhill gains momentum.
    Don’t be saying I’m a useless good for nothing.
    I’m the best bad example you’ll find.

    I’m a teaching moment!

  2. Mike, I always read what you write but seldom comment. Don’t always agree with you, but enjoy your perspective. I think the paragraph that begins, “losing someone you love” is some of the finest writing you’ve ever done. That’s the kind of paragraph that had birth pangs. Thanks

  3. I was taught that by my dog, many years ago. Just being still, listening and watching. There really is so much to see and hear if you take the time.

  4. I used to always duck out of the picture. If someone was taking a photo, I ducked out. I lost three really great friends, one was taken by heart issues and was like a surrogate father. One was like a brother and was taken by pancreatic cancer. One was the most generous kind soul to everyone, and a sister/friend to all. She was brutally murdered by a jealous boyfriend/piece of shit. When I look at pictures of them, I was there, but ducked out of the picture and have very few of us together. Get in the picture. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Take time to have the conversation. Drink the coffee, or the drink.

    Get in the picture, literally, metaphorically, whatever.

  5. I got great advice from a retirement planner: before you retire, figure out a hobby you want to do once retired–or develop one. If possible, go to part-time before retirement.

    Mike, you are right: keep busy. When my Mom and Dad retired, they did not do much. Once they lost their respective spouses (my step-parents), their mental acuity dropped. Now my Mom is in an assisted-living place and my Dad will probably head to one if he is not there already.

    I do plan to keep busy when/if I retire. My job can allow me to work part-time, so that is a plus. And it is a job I enjoy.

    And Mike: my condolences on your loss.

  6. Many people define themselves by their job. “I am a . . .” rather than “I work for . . .” or “I do . . .” Once the job is over they aren’t sure who they are.

  7. I’ve spent about 18 hours a day for the past week neck deep in dealing with a critical network security issue that will likely reek havoc across the internet for weeks to come; in the few hours when I SHOULD be sleeping i end up just playing through scenario after scenario in my head of different ways to deal with this problem.

    I love my job and i hate my job. – it is weeks like this that remind me of just how frightening our poor cybersecurity position really is. – innocuous code that is all over the internet and has had a major, incredibly easy to exploit vulnerability that anyone could use to gain complete control of a computer and it has been running on hundreds of millions of devices around the world for years unnoticed and now that it’s been exposed literally anyone can download an easy to use tool and basically own a computer without even needing an account.

    not every week is like this but every week presents challenges that need to be addressed, puzzles that need to be solved and panicking customers that need to be medicated… or something… I’m 61 and Thoughts of retiring are certainly looming but the transition from my day to day work life for the past 30+ years of my career to… “retired” is a surreal thought… how do you even switch suddenly from such a stress filled career to one where i have no deadlines, no customers, nearly no emergency calls at 2AM and losing the entire social network of coworkers/customers/vendors etc. that have made up such a huge part of daily life all at once.

    Retirement sounds really really attractive but that sudden transition in life is not going to be easy.

    • on that note: I love dogs; always have. I also have never had a dog because I have never felt that I had the time to give that dog the time and attention it so richly deserves. I think that might just be the best change that will come from retirement.

  8. Larry, keep moving. Read more. Go out in the morning for long walks. Eat at that restaurant you never went to before. Take a day trip to a state park you’ve never been to before. Go see a movie alone. But Keep Moving.

  9. Tim, life is about how you respond to loss. I know that now. But I also know life doesn’t end with sorrow. I know I have to keep active, stay busy, write more, play with the dogs, and keep mom in motion, too. I love being retired. I once loved my job, but like most things in life, that ended.

  10. Keith, I went from being the Project Manager of a 22 million dollars project to trying to figure out what art classes Mom could go to during the day, and how to get her there and back. It’s a stark difference, but you know, it is one I have planned for. I don’t want to be that guy that cannot let go. And I am writing more than I thought possible.

  11. I think if it weren’t for Bits & Pieces and the people that keep coming here and commenting, I’d probably be sitting on the couch watching Netflix WAY too much. I would probably read more and I certainly could use more activity and that damn exercise stuff.

Comments are closed.