After we have all of our financial ducks in a row, retirement is simply a state of mind. However, many people have difficulty getting their mind into that state. Personally, I think it is easier for women than for males. Men seem to think that they are their jobs. If they do not have a place to get up and go every morning, they wonder about their purpose. It is a habit, but it can be broken.
I retired in 2004 at the age of 50. I enjoyed the 30 years of work that I was lucky to have, and I knew I was fortunate to find employment to be able to use my degree in social work. However, I wondered about other careers and if I made the right decision in the one I chose, which is why I did not have to think twice about retiring at the age of 50. There were other things I wanted to explore.
My children were grown. I had a retirement savings and a 401K plan, so I did it. Since that time, I have reinvented myself a few times and have enjoyed every minute.
My first reinvention was purchasing an old home and creating a bed and breakfast with my husband. He was still employed, so the majority of the project was mine for a few years. It appealed to everything I enjoyed: cooking, decorating, gardening and meeting new people. I was busier than I anticipated. For seven years, I hosted 400 people, many of them return guests and business travelers. Some of them became so familiar, I could count on them to walk my dog. I retired from the B and B business in 2011, following my husband’s retirement in 2009. We wanted to travel and the business was confining, so we sold it and renovated a small house, which we call a cabin in the country. We traveled and still do.
My second reinvention was to pick up a laptop and begin to write. I had no idea if I could write or not, but I wrote and wrote, and I loved every minute of it. I took online classes and attended workshops. After writing six novels, I decided to see if anyone wanted to read them. This began a search for resources to format, create covers and market these writings. I am still in the process of doing this. I have designed a web site, joined Facebook groups, blogged and posted as a guest blogger. This reinvention has opened a whole new world for me — a world I had no idea existed.
Along the way, during my reinventions, I have searched for volunteer opportunities to meet new people, go new places and explore other interests. These activities cannot be done from the rocker on the porch, although I do a lot of thinking there with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Recently, at a dinner with old friends, we discussed retirement. There were eight of us, four retired and four still employed. My great friend, Brent, coined a phrase for his reluctance to retire, FOMO, fear of missing out. He explained that he thought many people continued to work because they were afraid they would miss something if they didn’t go to work every day. I can fully understand this syndrome, especially if your work is your greatest passion. I, on the other hand, had FOMO about the things I could be doing if I was not employed.
There are other things I want to explore, opportunities I have heard others participate in that I can get FOMO over. Anyone with access to a computer can type in their passion and find numerous volunteer and part time work opportunities to travel and take advantage of doing the things they daydreamed about while working a full time job.
I have researched some of mine, and I challenge anyone considering retirement to take a deep breath and get past the emotional block that might be holding them to their nine to five. There is too much out there in the world not to reinvent yourself every few years. The beauty of retirement is that you can move on if you find it doesn’t suit you. Here are some things worth exploring:
- The Master Gardeners program — Anyone interested in gardening can be trained and then work as a volunteer in their community, establishing gardens and teaching other people. The master gardeners I have talked with are passionate about plants and finding natural ways to fight pests and encourage growth. It is a learning experience and a chance to share with others and the community.
- ProLiteracy — What could be better than helping someone learn to read and supporting literacy in your state and community? In addition, many schools have volunteer programs for adults who want to mentor children doing homework or listening to them read. I can attest that this is a rewarding experience.
- Hugging pandas in China — I swear I am going to do this. Wouldn’t it be great to be paid to live in China for a while and hug pandas? Can you think of a better way to see the world? I bet there are some medicinal benefits from being able to hug a panda on a regular basis. I’m going to give it a try.
- National Park volunteers — I know people who do this. Many of them return to the same park every year because they enjoy the people and nature scape. They are some of the most interesting people I know. I could talk to them for hours.
- The Innocence Project — The Innocence Project has always intrigued me. I think this would be one of the most rewarding things a volunteer could do. This would be an opportunity to glimpse a part of life we don’t want to see. I think I have a responsibility to get involved in this project one of these days and try to improve a system that has been broken for a while.
It is a big world and a small world. The more I am in it, the smaller it gets. It is funny how overwhelming it can be if it is viewed from one chair in one place doing the same thing over and over. Many people will live in it like that, limiting their realm of influence, but they are bigger than they know. It just takes a few deep breaths and there’s nothing to lose from going for it. No more FOMO.