The Retirement Bucket List

Knitting with Boojie's help--knitting was on my bucket list!

It may seem retired people do only what they want–nap, watch TV, sleep late, go shopping, travel.  An acquaintance of mine has been retired  for several months.  I know, through other sources, that she has been struggling with retirement ever since.  She may have envisioned her retirement  days as one long weekend that never ends;  in fact, she told me that retirement seems like Saturday every day–it is hard to keep track of the days of the week sometimes.  However,  I feel confident that will change for her over time.    It certainly has for me.

Five years before I actually retired from my teaching job, I chose to work half-time for half-pay.  This was not the best financial decision for me, but it was necessary for my mental health.  My father had passed away the previous year after suffering through several years of dementia.  The whole experience of dealing with his illness, as well as the loss of him, wiped out my coping abilities.   I had also endured several other upheavals and changes in my life and career during those years before he died.  I wanted to just pack it in, but I did not have the required equation (age plus years invested), or the savings,  to just quit working.    However, the thought  of  spending another five years in the classroom caused panic attacks.  I simply had to make a change in my life.   After negotiating with my principal and the school board, I was designated a half-time teacher of the gifted and talented  at the elementary school where I was already employed.

I’m not going to describe the ups and downs of having a special assignment in a school like the one from which I retired.  That is the subject for another blog entry.  Personal relationships with the other teachers changed dramatically, and I unwisely used much of my time at home working on lessons.  A teacher’s work is never done, especially in her own mind.!   On the plus side, with more time to take care of myself, my health did improve, as did my state of mind.  The negatives included the aforementioned issues, as well as guilt about not working enough.

From my experience, as well as that of my husband and some relatives who have retired, I can say that retirement requires planning.  Over time we discovered the need for hobbies and avocations–some kind of routine and work.   Depression can set in if a formerly busy and employed person has no direction.

You may have goals and hobbies that you always wanted to pursue if you only had the time.  Those might work out or not, so it is important to look beyond them.  I always wanted to write a novel, but discovered that fiction writing was not for me.  I wrote poetry and enjoyed that for awhile.  Ultimately I ended up writing a family memoir and I’m now working on a family history.  These turned out to be more to my liking and an outgrowth of my interests.  Blogging for the everyday person evolved since my retirement, which has also fed my desire to write.

My husband retired involuntarily after the financial crash in 2008.  He was an architect who loved what he did, and hoped to do it forever.  The recent  turn down in home building wiped out his prospects, so he had to do a lot of exploring, experimenting and reflecting before settling into a satisfying routine of writing a murder mystery and accomplishing household design and building and around the house.  We had hoped to travel a lot, but that has been curtailed by reduced finances.  Readjusting, reevaluating and revamping have all become part of our daily discussions.  We have helped each other reflect on what a

Bucket List

change in lifestyle means for us–our bucket lists, so to speak.

Yesterday and today I have been reworking my goals–what don’t I need to do after all?  What is most important to me?  What is my legacy for my children and grandchildren?   All of these are further thoughts for future blogs…

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Life-Work: Finding The Space

So far 2010 has been about organizing my Stuff–and it needed to be!   People who have retired from a paying job still crave some kind of  work.   When I retired from teaching elementary school in September 2002, I thought I knew what I would do as a “second career.”  I had spent four years working as a half-time teacher, “transitioning” into retirement.   After that “practice” retirement, I realized that the real thing requires on-the-job training.

Throughout the years I worked as an elementary school teacher, I dreamed of being a writer.  I had always kept a journal, but I added poetry and stories when on summer breaks from teaching.   During the school year, inevitably I became  frustrated with the regimen of classroom teaching.  I  saw myself setting my own agenda and working as a writer from home.  In hind sight, I know that most people become frustrated with their work, picturing  what they would do if they had it to do all over again.  Often writing is one of those romantic choices.   However, during those years, I was the only person I knew who believed she was a writer trapped in a classroom.

However, this isn’t a blog entry about suddenly discovering my calling.   Rather, I am writing about life-work.  Although I love children and I am glad that I had the opportunity to teach, I have never been sorry to be doing something else.  My teaching experience has helped me to play creatively with my grandchildren and enjoy being part of their expanding discovery of the world around them.  I have no regrets about my professional choices because they gave me insights into childhood and the importance of keeping my mind open to new opportunities.

Since retirement I have worked as a writer, though I haven’t received much money for my efforts.  I  finished writing a book in November.  It is “resting” while I decide on marketing and publishing strategies.  I love blogs and  blogging and have now started my third blog (!).  I’ve also developed numerous hobbies that are both creative efforts and keep my days full.  Fitting new interests into a townhouse, however, requires a different kind of creativity.  Enter Dave, my husband, the architect.  He knows all about space!

I have two working spaces in the house.  One of them is this room where I am writing.  It contains my computer and printer, paper, notebooks, pencils and pens–as well as two cat beds.  I also do the household accounts, so I have calculators, check books and the bills here.  This is The Office.  Since I  also taught myself to knit recently, I have knitting books, needles and the yarn I am currently using stored in here.  My bookcases contain dictionaries, writing books, genealogy books and family records (another hobby), most of the pictures from my ancestors,  childhood and my life up to now.  We also store some of our cookbooks in this room, plus my recipe collection–although cooking is not one of my hobbies.

Upstairs I have another room, called The Atelier.  It is also shared with our two cats, two more round beds for them and the towels stretched across a top shelf in the sunniest window.  This space was to be Dave’s architectural studio, but the room’s orientation is too hot and bright in the afternoons–which is why the cats like it and it is sometimes referred to as The Lair.   Dave’s  closet and bathroom are off of this room.  The walls show off some of his favorite architectural scenes and the bookshelves store his favorite mystery books. There I have my sewing machine and table,  patterns, wool for felting, felting needles and tools, as well as sewing books & doll magazines.

I restarted my doll collection after I gained a granddaughter, so I have my doll collection in a display case in the bedroom.  Dave built a play scale (not miniature) doll house for my granddaughter Julia and me.   When she comes over we play elaborate games with my dolls, and a few that I bought for her.

This doll collecting led to another mini-hobby–buying and selling dolls and doll stuff on eBay.  That endeavor has gone into semi-retirement, although I did enjoy it.  I had many business writing experiences creating descriptions for dolls, as well as reformulating my shipping and return policy. I also resold online most of the hardback fiction that I bought and hadn’t passed on to friends and family so that we would have room for other Stuff.  Our new neighborhood library, conveniently located several blocks away, sees a lot of us now!

For the last few weeks Dave and I have been reorganizing and storing my cloth and yarn stash since he has moved his office/studio to the basement.  Now that he is a retired–but still open to options–architect, we reshuffled his Stuff, my Stuff and our whole living space.  Most of my teaching materials and supplies are long gone.

During this next phase of both our lives, and the lives of friends and family who have retired, we have noticed that retirement isn’t easy on a number of levels.  My father said that you have to prepare for it, but I’m not sure that is really possible for everyone.  Most people don’t realize that retirement can feel like being “side-lined”, whether you chose to retire or were forced into it–with tinfoil parachutes, as my sister-in-law called her sudden forced retirement not long ago.

Even though I wanted to retire, to start something new, I still felt at loose ends.   My job had defined my daily parameters with schedules and requirements, so I was ill-equipped to delineate my own timefor a long time.  Then there was always the question of where to spend my time.  I had whole days to “squander,” which didn’t feel right to me.  I was flighty and unfocused.  It has taken years to work my way through all that I thought I wanted to do and find what fits my evolving interests.

I know I am a work-in-progress, just like the two sweaters I am knitting.  I work awhile, tear out a few rows, re-knit them and add that many more.  I’m counting on the sweaters being done long before I am!