Much as has been written about properly preparing oneself for life after retirement, both financially and mentally. Certainly, one needs to plan, research and get ready for that next big step! I recently retired after a 30-year teaching career and felt ready. I had enjoyed my professional life but was ready for a change, I had plans, I was financially comfortable. However, after having spent most of my adult life with a set professional identity and image, the biggest challenge is now re-framing the picture.
What will life after retirement look like, on a day-to-day basis? How will the picture evolve over time? This new stage of life is one that should be healthy, fulfilling and open to change. The biggest challenge may not be preparing to take that big leap, but creating the new picture in those first few months.
Embrace your new life and its possibilities. Celebrate past successes. Congratulate yourself for having arrived at this point. Clear your head and open yourself up to the future. You don’t need to have a clear plan nor is it necessary to wipe the canvas clean. How do you want to add to this picture of your life?
Start a brand new picture by doing something completely different in those first few months. If possible change your environment. For me, going to Europe for two months, especially at the beginning of the first new school year was the key! Although we’ve always enjoyed travelling, my husband and I felt a new sense of freedom away from the rigid timelines of the usual vacation. Seeing and living in a new environment allowed me to avoid the usual madness and feel far removed from it. Allow yourself the chance to completely change the setting of your picture, if only for a short time.
Regain a sense of normalcy. When the party is over and life is back to normal, what do the days look like? Many new retirees find that the hardest challenge as they adjust to life after retirement. It’s wonderful to have all that time, but after years of deadlines and projects and schedules, there is sometimes a futility in those seemingly empty days. Fill the picture frame by filling in your calendar – literally! Make plans and schedule them in. Aim for some sort of routine. I struggle with the idea of being too scheduled, but having some marked events in your daily and weekly calendar, such as regular trips to the gym, weekly lunches with friends, or even just to-do lists (of your own choosing!) help fill that frame with a vibrant and moving picture.
Keep that frame strong by keeping it moving – literally. Exercise and good healthy habits are essential – and now you have more time for it! Not only will this help with overall fitness and good health as you age, but it will also give you more energy! Choose something you enjoy. If a rushed trip to the gym reminds you of your crazy work schedule, find a new pursuit or enjoy long walks.
Take time to savour preparing and eating healthy foods. Sleep as much as you need! If you wake in the night, allow yourself to press your re-set button and grab extra hours in the morning. You can now!
Give that picture a clean and fresh canvas and a strong backing!
Get up, dress up. Although it is lovely to have the freedom to lounge around in yoga pants, sometimes it is nice to take it up a notch. I love clothes and sometimes gaze wistfully at the dresses and skirts I used to wear every day. Deciding to dress up a bit, even just for a coffee date or a shopping trip, can be a boost and brighten up that picture a bit!
And show up. Stay connected! Often, colleagues are the best part of our work lives. Stay in touch with people. Even though you may not have as much in common, perhaps you will discover other common ground away from the workplace. At the same time, make plans to see those friends you didn’t have as much time for during your busy work life. Again, these events on the calendar will add new perspective to the picture you are framing.
Give yourself permission to hibernate! Sleep in on a rainy morning, spend an afternoon with a good book or Netflix, say no when you really don’t want to go out. Again, it’s about taking control while maintaining a healthy balance. Freeze frame that picture!
Exploring or re-discovering your passion. Many people would put this first, and it is a very important part of the overall retirement plan.Remember, though, you don’t need to do everything in these first few months. However, start thinking of things you have always wanted to do and explore those possibilities. For me, it is taking an acting class, sitting down at the computer to do more writing – things I spent my career helping kids do, and letting myself become the learner!
Retirement offers a host of possibilities, and everyone has different goals and expectations. These will likely evolve and change over time, but those first few months of life after retirement are perfect for taking stock, celebrating the options available and starting those first few strokes of your new picture.