A little over a year ago, I retired from my full-time job as a records scanner for a large medical concern. In reality, it was quitting since there is no Social Security payment involved, but only time that is now my own. I should have stayed on until my real retirement age, but I just couldn’t stand another day, let alone two years. The stressful, low-paying, mind-numbing, body-crushing, unappreciated… need I go on?
I had lots of ideas about what I’d do with those extra five days per week: go for health walks and get a treadmill; write my books, blogs, stories, posts, and articles; finish cataloging my ancestry and maybe visit some of the places they had lived; cat-sit and do collectible sales for money; get back to regular volunteering and attend my Al-Anon meeting every week. I envisioned a decline of stress and an upsurge of energy. All those things I’d promised myself for the last fifteen years.
Things never work out as planned, do they? I hadn’t counted on a resurgence of my General Anxiety Disorder which makes even the simplest effort disproportionately difficult. Out of the last 12 months, I’ve been plagued with some extent of GAD for 8. I didn’t get a treadmill and now I’ve became reticent to go outside my house; no one’s here to make me, so in I stay. I didn’t cat-sit or sell stuff because I got an ACA health plan that was based on me not making any money. I became even more of a slacker about my volunteering and my meetings because they were away from home. (see above.) I had so little energy I was certain I must be sick.
The thing I did do was write. I finished and published 2 books in 2016, wrote a third draft of another, and started a fourth. I managed about a blog a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I kept up with posts on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Pintrest. I did promotion, readings, and panels; I attended promotions, readings, and panels. I met lots of writers, read lots of books, and for the first time, really began to feel like I was a writer too. So that’s what I do in my house when I don’t go outside: I write.
On looking back at the last year, a year of making – and breaking – my own plans and goals, I see it as a transition and learning experience. I know I have to keep moving, even if all I want to do is sit and play with the stories in my head. I feel better when I move, walk. I’ve just recently began standing at my computer instead of sitting, and it did me instant good. I know I have to bravely face the anxiety when it comes and appreciate the times when it’s gone. I know I have to make some money, and I really do love cat-sitting. (Collectible sales, not so much)
Retirement comes with a cost: all those hours I have to fill with my own choices. It feels a little like being a kid out of school: I couldn’t wait to be here but now what do I do? I thought I knew, but I am finding it’s a process. To be fulfilled and comfortable in retirement, I have to give up a lot of preconceptions. I have to let go of fantasies and goals that will not work for me anymore. Everyone’s retirement looks different and I know now that mine isn’t going to be on the Love Boat.