By James Wallace Harris, Sunday, March 22, 2015
Now that I’ve been retired for a year and a half, I see that I need to rethink my retirement plans and habits. Living without the structure of work is changing my psychology. Unlimited free time is like living land of the Lotus Eaters. Doing whatever I want, when I want, is like a habit forming drug. Want to kick back and listen to Van Morrison for two hours – cool. Want to watch the Oklahoma Kid, a western from 1939, sure, why not. Want to put off lunch until 2:30 to keep reading my science fiction novel, that’s a-okay. I go to bed when I’m tired of doing things, and get up when I’m tired of not doing anything. I’m like a dog that takes a nap whenever and wherever it damn well feels like it.
Now this might sound like paradise to my hardworking friends who toil away at their nine to five grind. And it pretty much is. I’m not really complaining, but I sort of am, a kind of worry that I have too much of a good thing. My mom used to always ration cookies to me and my sister, Becky, so when I got my first apartment, I would buy a bag of Chips Ahoy! and eat the whole damn thing. Retirement is overindulging in free time.
I need to make Retirement 2.0 more disciplined. Maybe I need to schedule my fun, so I’d feel more productive about doing nothing.
The trouble is, I’m writing less, letting the house go, ignoring things on my to-do list, and losing all sense of discipline. I don’t know if this is because I’ve gone eighteen months without working, or because I gave up junk food January 1st, and don’t have enough brain fuel to keep me energized. However, I don’t want to get a job just to force a routine on myself.
I started writing this essay last week. I wrote the title, thought about it, and then went and fixed myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and went back to reading The Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon. Writing takes work. Writing takes sticking to the project for hours. And since I’ve been retired, I realize that it’s much too easy to skip working at things. I’ve talk with some of my other retired friends, and they also talk about losing their discipline. We can’t decide if it’s a matter of just getting old, or not having a routine forced on us. Evidently, what they told us in school was true, work builds character.
At work, if I got assigned a big project, knowing it was due in two months, and I’d project manage myself and get it done. Now if I want to do something, it’s whenever I feel like doing it, and that tends to promote a lackadaisical mindset. If I have to do things by a date, like a doctor’s visit, or help a friend move a tree, I get it done on time. Which makes me think I should assign myself tasks and deadlines, even if it’s fun, like promising to go a movie with a friend next Sunday afternoon.
Now I’m sure BillyPilgrim is going to suggest I’m depressed, but I’m not. I’m writing this essay to think about the nature of my situation, and figure out solutions. I should plan each blog post as a specific job with a deadline, and divide up the work like a project manager.
I’m fascinated that we all go through various phases in our life. My friend Connell, who retired ahead of me, warned me about this phase. I didn’t understand. I wonder how many more phases I will experience before I die? Could older people warn me about future life phases of retirement years? Would I comprehend what they tell me. Could I use the knowledge to my advantage? I don’t know, but I’m going to research into this.
[p.s. I scheduled writing this essay in my Outlook Tasks, and I’m finishing on time. And I’ve just scheduled a much bigger writing project that’s due March 31st.]
9 thoughts on “Retirement 2.0”
There are few things more worthwhile than reading Stapledon. Sounds idyllic.
(Of course when I took last year off I didn’t get much done either…)
I wonder how many people still read Stapledon? What a vast imagination!!!
Enjoying your posts!
Yes, having been retired for almost 3 years I just only now lately find myself comfortable with my freedom. But this “phase” didn’t really start until about 6 months ago. Then I began cooking more interesting things and getting out to see friends a bit more. Now I’ve started gardening and that’s going pretty well. I don’t nap but I should add walks to my day. Good luck, Jim – it takes some getting used to. Btw, I still miss my good old 3-day weekends. lol
It seems like a foreign world to some of us although perhaps akin to getting more done when you have lots to do?
I am reading your post in a hotel room. I will be retiring in about a month and I spent the day handing off work to the staff who will be taking over, settling some of the issues for my team etc so I found your post very timely. I too have plans for writing, taking photos, woodworking etc. I already find knowing I have this large block of time coming up has diminished my already low drive to do things on the weekends. I will keep your experience in mind, although I had already penciled in the Stapleton on my to do list.
Good Luck on phase 2.
I’m with you there, buddy. I retired too at the age of 30 (slight tongue in cheek moment) and have to admit, even with my lofty intentions, laziness does sometime get the better of me. Allow it!
The structure of a job lets you off the hook for that “I should be doing something productive” feeling. I think it’s something you have to learn to let go of. The concept of “beyond adulthood” helped me see that post work life is different. Not only is your time your own, but you get to write the rules about how you use it… A daunting task if you take it too seriously. We’ll figure it out. We figured out all the rest, didn’t we. Didn’t we?
Yes, we’ll figure it out. I guess I’m in the process of writing my rules. I think I need to be tougher on myself than I used to be – but not too tough. I’m overjoyed to escape the 9to5 world, so I don’t want to recreate it.