Preparing for a Fulfilling Retirement
I have made a lot of mistakes in my life. Want proof? Take a look at my memoir, Digging Deep: A Writer Uncovers His Marriages. In retirement, however, I have done a lot right, and in this book I’m sharing it with my readers. I was a lawyer, now leading a fulfilling retirement and having the time of my life on a relatively modest income.
For the first time, I take life slowly and notice and revel in the beauty in the world. I have learned something about who I am and what I care about, and feel at peace most of the time. I have always loved to travel, and now have time to pursue that love. I have found my passion, writing. Writing, traveling, learning, eating good food and drinking good wine fulfills me. What other people do, think, or how they choose to live their lives doesn’t concern or worry me. I have family and friends that I care about and who care about me. I am engaged with life and love it. Challenges arise; worries and fears intrude—and I’ll tell you about those too, but I deal with them without feeling overwhelmed, broken or hopeless.
Many people are miserable in retirement because they don’t know what to do when they no longer work full time. They are not growing or learning and feel they have no purpose or direction. It doesn’t have to be that way. Retirement raises new and scary issues, as well as opportunities to begin a new life. Having planned for adequate financial resources, it is how we deal with the emotional issues and invite the opportunities that bring fulfillment.
Retirement is more than leisure time. Too much leisure time is often an expressway to boredom, frustration and unhappiness. Although decades of earning a living give us the opposite impression, loads of leisure time can be as unfulfilling and as fraught with stress and sadness as overwork.
Studies have shown that retirees who work even part time, volunteer to help others or learn new activities are happier than those with a lot of leisure time and insufficient interests to take up that time. Most retirees must develop interests and engage in life to feel fulfilled. Knowing or finding out what interests you, what you are passionate about, is critical. The prize of retirement is not the leisure. It’s the opportunity to begin anew in a direction that reflects who you’ve become. I will tell you how I seized this opportunity and discovered my passions in retirement.
My life’s work as a lawyer was not as fulfilling as I had hoped. It seemed as if, when someone asked me to do something, I operated on the principle that they had asked because it was important. I succeeded as a lawyer because I so rarely declined any request made of me. Retirement provided me with an opportunity to start a new life in which I learn, create and do what I want, not what someone else wants. I am who I wish to be without regard to what society, a boss or anyone else requests or expects. For many of us there is no other time when this is a practical option.
Currently, I am single, but, despite my three divorces, I don’t rule out the possibility of a relationship with a partner or spouse. I receive life as it comes and decide what I want. My experience in creating a fulfilling retirement can be helpful for retirees with or without a spouse or partner.
Many retired people become clinically depressed, unable to deal with the fear of not being “useful,” or of impending death or other worries.
The key to a fulfilling retirement is to prepare for it and find a passion that will not only occupy your time, but your heart. You prepared for your career. Now you must prepare for retirement.
Boyd Lemon-author of Retirement: A Memoir and Guide, a book that shows you how the author learned to live a fulfilling and happy retirement, and how you can too.