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What’s it like to be “Retired”?

Well, it’s kind of weird really.  And even if I was 62, I feel like it would be weird.  All the sudden, I am in charge of my time, not my employer.  Because really, when we’re working, isn’t our employer in charge of ALL our time?

I mean, if we work a day job, we can’t stay out late with friends if we expect to be able to wake up and be functional at work in the morning.  And if we work nights, then everyone else is out having fun while we’re at work.  And, salaried or hourly, we could be required to stay later than planned on a work day.

We often are giving up the best portion of the day to our employer.  In winter, when days are short, many of us drive to work in the dark and drive home in the dark, missing all the beautiful sunny day!  And is it just me? Or does it often seem that the work week is full of lovely days and then it rains all day Saturday and Sunday?  But we usually don’t have a choice in the days we went to work.  It’s Monday through Friday or Sunday through Thursday or a rotating 4-day shift that switches to nights one week and days the next.  How does one’s body ever hope to adjust to that?

Speaking of our bodies, we have to take time off to schedule health care appointments.  Or if we’re sick ~ though some of us don’t even have this luxury!  So many people have no sick leave at all, short of taking FMLA.  And I was amazed to find out when I retired how many women don’t have access to maternity leave.  Crazy!

And what if we want to help out at our kid’s school or volunteer for a local charity?  We can only do these things when we are not at work, and then only if we have enough energy left to give to these outside endeavors.

But if we run out of work, we can’t just go home.  We have to be there 8 hours or 10 or 12, whatever our allotment is.  This is the worst!  Being held captive with no real purpose for a couple hours of our life.  What a waste!  And we can’t leave town for a day or two, unless it’s the weekend and we’re off work.  We often have to earn our vacation or personal time.  We only get a small bit and some of us are even on call during those days.  It’s sad when I think about how much time I spent on vacations with calls for customers or simply thinking about work issues.  The last day of vacation was usually spent worrying about digging out once I returned to work.  Sometimes, looking at the inbox with hundreds of e-mails and the stack of papers on my desk when I returned, it felt like the vacation time was hardly worth it.

And it’s not just our time that employers control.  Many of us have to wear certain clothes to work. Or we can’t wear our hair certain ways.  Most of us are limited on when we can eat ~ only during lunch hour. Some are even limited on when they can go to the bathroom!  We are restricted from wearing jewelry or other attire that is a part of who we are. There are often restrictions on tattoos and smoking.  And no one can do drugs ~ you’ll fail the random drug test.  (While there is an argument that we shouldn’t be doing drugs in any event, it’s hard to argue against it being one more way an employer impinges on personal freedom.) Being an employee often changes one into a persona that is not truly representative of oneself.

I think that was one of the big drivers for me.  I felt I was no longer ME.  Yes, I was a control freak, so I was perfect for the Quality World.  Yes, I enjoyed customer interactions and problem resolution, so it’s not that I hated my job.  I was quite good at it and enjoyed a lot of it.  I had a lot of great customers and co-workers who could really made my day.  But there were just too many days when I would rather be crafting.  Or sleeping in.  Or not having to be at work until 9 o’clock at night.

As soon as I left the Rat Race, I immediately began being more ME.  What freedom!!!

It was weird at first.  There was still some paranoia and looking over my shoulder.  And being employed part-time, I still have to think about how I’m dressed a few times a week! 🙂 But the more I practice, the better I am at just being ME and deciding how to spend MY time.

  • I’m no longer worried about what someone thinks about my chewed up blue-checkered Vans and whether they match the outfit I’m wearing.  BTW, I just bought a new pair that are super cool.  Not sure yet whether I will try to paint them… [I know I’m big on anti-consumerism, but I figure a pair of Vans every dozen years is reasonable.  I pretty much wore the originals out!  I also bought a pair of suede clogs and Mom bought me a pair of Birkenstock-like sandals in the last year, so it’s been a big year for shoes!  But I pretty much wear these same three pairs of shoes week in and week out.]

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  • I went to live in an Ecovillage for three (3) weeks and lived like the true Hippie I want to be.  I Heart Dancing Rabbit.  http://www.dancingrabbit.org/
  • I no longer worry so much about what someone thinks of my politics. (Boy, could I share a doozy of a story about politics and SDI.  Maybe another time.)  My FB posts definitely got more  open and true to the real me once I retired.  The fear created when you are beholden to someone for your livelihood is quite powerful.
  • I’m able to available to volunteer at lots of places: the DFL office GOTV program, Discovery Middle School Career Day presentations, Voyager Book Room, AAHS STEAM Program assistance for the Technology demos, Co-leader for the Alexandria Chapter of CCL, Theatre L’Homme Dieu ushering and concessions and most recently, Friends of the Library!
  • I have had time to make quilts for babies born earlier this year.  Congratulations Steve & Steph, Kyle & Kelly and Greg & Lesley!
  • I’m able to stay up late into the night reading if I want and I can take a nap in the afternoon.
  • I love relaxing in bed until 9AM if I feel like it.  (This is a weird one as I’ve always been a morning person but I’m finding myself being up late reading, so not always able to pop right up at 7 AM.)
  • I get together with fellow Crafters and just CREATE.
  • I can simply sit and BE.  I can DO NOTHING.
  • I am able to silently contemplate the meaning of life and what that means for today.
  • I have time to write.

This brings us to the Question:  Is there really anything to do?

Oh, Lord!  I will NEVER AGAIN ask someone who’s retiring “How on earth are you going to keep busy?”  It’s EASY!  There are a million things to fill your days.  (I hear this from Retirees all the time now!)

And I’ve gotten some feedback from the poll on the July 27th blog that people would like to hear about Finding Fulfillment after leaving the Rat Race.  Over the next couple posts, I’ll share a bit on what I’m doing of late to find fulfillment.  And, since some of you are still working full-time, I’ll make the first one about weekend stuff so you can try to incorporate some of these ideas into your busy weeks.  I found that one of the best things to help me stay in the Rat Race with some level of sanity, was to keep finding time for fun and being the real me.  So I look forward to sharing a little slice of my life and how I find fulfillment when we get together next week.  And if you haven’t taken the poll yet, scroll down and Get ‘R Done!!  (You can vote for more than one thing too! Or add something unique in the Other box that I hadn’t thought to include.  Be as creative as you’d like! 🙂 )