I have been reflecting about my experiences so far as a semi-retired person. That has involved not having a set schedule or responsibilities for tasks that I don’t want to do. I am working with my talented doctoral students and on research and papers, all things that I enjoy. I don’t go to meetings and am not doing any teaching, except for an occasional guest lecture. So what is the best thing so far?
Judy and I have begun doing some of the big things we planned. We had a leisurely two weeks in Paris last May. It was a marvelous trip that we thoroughly enjoyed. But it was not the best thing so far.
We have been seeing our grandchildren more often. In a couple of weeks we will be spending a long weekend with two of them and their parents in Washington, visiting the zoo to see the pandas,(including the new baby panda), elephants and other animals that tweak a three year old’s fancy. This is certainly one of the things we have most been looking forward to. Is it the best? In the long run, seeing them grow up will be the best thing, but there is something else each week that for me embodies the real promise of retirement.
The best thing so far? It’s on Sundays. I no longer start to feel by mid-afternoon the dread about the tasks undone at work or that need to be done the next week. I no longer feel uneasy in the pit of my stomach about what looms ahead on Monday, or believe I have to use Sunday to catch up. Instead, I can do what I want. Watch football. Walk outside to look at the leaves, which have nearly reached their peak colors. Read a book for pleasure. Or watch The Great British Baking Show with Judy.
This feeling of freedom on Sunday is at the core of what can be best about retirement. Judy has observed that retirement is the first time since we were on summer vacation as children that we could do whatever we want. There is no one telling us what to do. It is entirely up to us. This is truly the opportunity that retirement brings. For some retirees, this freedom is frightening, and they don’t know how to fill their time without the structure of work. But both of us have had ideas and interests we have wanted to pursue, if only we didn’t have work. There is a wonderful Calvin and Hobbs book about summer vacation titled The Days Are Just Packed. We’re on summer vacation.
So if you are going off to work tomorrow, think of me. I’m going to kick back and listen to the Mamas and Pappas’ classic, Monday, Monday, with a big smile on my face.
Coming Soon: Part 2 of “There’s No Place Like Home.” We’ll look at helping keep parents at home and what you need to do to stay at home.