Separation anxiety

While there have been and will continue to be numerous entertaining diversions along the way, the crux of this blog is about retired life. Not having to go to work every day and being able to call your own shots is a BIG deal. While some people just slip right into their new normal life; others struggle with the change.

Getting off to a good start just makes sense. This means making as clean a break a possible with your work life. Some of what follows may sound a bit strident, but I believe that the reasoning is sound. Retiring, in a way, is like starting a new job; it requires the same disciplined shift in focus.

For the sake of your own dignity and professionalism, as well as a courtesy to your employer and your colleagues, you will have left everything at work in good order, so that any questions were addressed before you’re actually went out the door. If you are called or emailed  a few times, that’s a reasonable nod to your skill and experience; but if the calls and emails from your workplace persist after you’ve left, stop responding. It’s time to sever that electronic leash that’s driven you crazy all these years. Somebody else is getting paid to wear it now.

Take a vacation, even a short one, as soon after retirement day as possible—preferably, to a new place, one you’ve always wanted to visit. This will not only put some distance between your new reality and your last, possibly emotional, days on the job, but also will signify the start of your new chapter. Don’t put off traveling; there may be a time when you are not up to it, and you don’t want to live with regret.

Be prepared, when you get back from that vacation, to give some very serious attention to what you intend to do with the rest of your life. It’s fine to lollygag for the first few months (see my previous post, “Take your time”); but eventually, with 50 books read, 15 hats knitted, and enough cupcakes in the freezer to feed three nursery school classes, you will run out of things to do. [Male readers, those were comments mostly aimed at women. Stereotypical, I know, but that’s the kind of thing that my women friends—even those of us who’ve had high-powered jobs—do in our spare time, partly because we rarely could before. You guys know that you can only rearrange the garage so many times, or play golf more than seven days a week, right?]

If you have a few really treasured friends at work, you will surely miss them and want to see them socially on occasion. That’s great. But it will be important, when you do, to give the conversation a direction other than how things are going at work. If you succumb to the temptation to talk about work, especially while retirement is still new, you’ll feel “needed” and  get sucked right back in emotionally. Nothing good can come of hearing what the revisionists have been up to, or the mistakes that have been made, or the clients won or lost, or even the latest gossip.

If you are not moving anywhere, which is another very big ball of wax to be addressed in future posts, take a serious look at your home environment. For lo, these many years, it’s been well suited to your not being there 24/7. If you’re going to be home most of the time, it follows that your environment should be welcoming, comfortable, attractive, and suited to your new needs. Revisit how you use your space. You may have had a home office equipped for working virtually. Would it better serve you now as a library or craft room or den or man cave? Even if you maintain it as office space, think about repainting and adding some new touches.

If you and your spouse are on the same retirement timetable, have an honest talk about how you will handle 24/7 togetherness (see my previous post, “A thought on togetherness”). No doubt you’ve been looking forward to more time together; but trust me, you will both be feeling your way through the fog for a while and will need to find ways to respect each other’s personal space.

Taking work out of the daily life equation changes all of your existing relationships in some way. You may have some re-creating to do—for example, with extended family, friends, and neighbors. You no longer have excuses for refusing a dinner invitation because you don’t have time or have to go to work the next day, which could be good or bad, depending. Plus, you should deliberately seek new friends, and some of them should be younger (see my previous post, “On broadening your circle of friends”).

Photo: Looking out over the Mediterranean from Monterosso al Mare, in the Cinque Terre.

3 thoughts on “Separation anxiety

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