When is Enough, Enough? What happens when you retire?

In retirement, sometimes you have to work at it…

I’ve been working at this retirement thing for over two years now.  Now to those who aren't close to retirement age, or for those who are at the mercy of a financial-collapse-ravaged 401k, this might seem to be an irrelevant “problem.” 

I get that. 

The fact remains that at some point, whether by choice or by circumstance, most of us will have to sort out what it means to be “retired.”  For me, I left the corporate life – by choice – for a “semi-retirement” of capitalizing on my 40+ years experience in my field.  Working project to project, brought on board by former business associates to do the “fun stuff.”  (For which I am extremely grateful, but that's another blog.)  In my case, Fun was designing and developing programs for web-based and tablet-based training.  I anticipated a slower schedule, less pressure, more flexibility – and a fee structure that, while it would not change my life one way or another, certainly will pay most of the bills.

What has evolved from this expectation is a pressure-cooker of tight deadlines, opaque client demands, lost weekends and, well, let’s say “stress” in the homelife.  Were I thirty years younger and had something to prove, bring it on.  But I think I’ve reached the point at which no amount of money or even peer-accolades is worth missing my daughter’s first baby shower.  Or losing a weekend with my Bride.  Or disappointing my son by cancelling a visit to Indiana.  I guess that my ability to set boundaries in my own workplace is not a lot better now than when I was an Organization Man. 

You’d think that I’d have learned that lesson when I “retired.”  Guess it’s one of those tutorials that I’m tasked to learn over and over again.  For a training professional, I sure am a slow learner.

So I am now at a crossroads – maybe it’s more like a crash scene.  With my Bride still working, I feel an obligation to bring in an income.  Call it “Y” chromosome poisoning.  At the same time, there are plenty of other things that I’d prefer to be doing.  Like writing this blog.  Like puttering around the house.  Like riding my bicycle to Nashville.  Like ziplining with my grandkids.  Like traveling to Portugal.  Like writing and selling a song I’ve written.  All of these things are new territory, and not in my recognized/marketable/work-experience-defined “skill set.” 

Still, it’s intoxicating, like an old fire horse, to answer the call to action.  Old habits and reward systems are really difficult to set aside.  Perhaps it’s Baby Boomer’s Lament, or too much emphasis on introspection, or maybe I just need to take six months off and do these other things.

All I know for sure is that retirement, like life, isn’t the finish line.  It’s keeping your eye on the ball, seizing the day, relaxing when you can.  And taking the time to understand where your life is the Most Important.

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bulldogger October 26, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Chris, with all due respect, when you actually retire you might have the perspective to write a blog about "what happens when you retire".
Chris Callahan October 26, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Valid point, bulldogger. I'll report back in six months. Any insight you can provide?
Michael Goettee October 26, 2012 at 03:13 PM
When I chose to retire early, and this was even before the economy tanked, it was because I ran out of excuses that prevented me from pursuing my dreams. I too left years of gruesome deadlines and hectic work (magazine art director). I still push myself too hard on my new projects as a fine art painter, but it's not nearly the ordeal the day-job had become. Now it's to meet an art show deadline for my paintings. My commute consists of back bedroom to the other side of the house where my studio is. Treadwear for the commute? Aging flip-flops. I LOVE retirement.
bulldogger October 26, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Real retirement is not working anymore........period. Believe me, once you actually retire, you'll not want to "have a job anymore" of any kind.
Chris Callahan October 26, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Thank you for the comments, gents. I'll be joining you in "real" retirement as soon as I finish up a couple of commitments!


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