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.