Five Early Lessons about Retirement

Well into the fourth week of retirement, I’m discovering some valuable lessons from what I’ve done so far and the habits that I’m picking up already. The lessons will make more sense, if you see the practices that they derive from. What’s below is a brief description of what I’ve done over the past three days.

Saturday night I had my first extended waste-of-time television marathon. After four months of not having television, I was fascinated with the idea of being able to watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. So, I stayed up until 3 am watching absolutely junk movies, not even bad B-Movies, just junk movies. Why? Because they were on television, and I could lie on the bed, do nothing other than smoke a few cigarettes, eat tiny bananas and let the images roll over me. In truth, I slept through half the movies that were on, but it was important that I watch the television.

Sunday morning I woke at 9 am. Actually I woke at 4:30 for the prayer call, again at 7 when the sun came streaming in the east windows, and then finally at 9 because it was getting too hot to lie in bed anymore.

Sunday evening, I attended a wedding reception held at one of the local hotels. The reception was huge – over 1,000 people easily – and took the form of a garden party. Two giant monitors were set up around the garden so people in the back could get a closer look at what was happening onstage. I’ve attended a few fancy wedding receptions before for some very rich folks in Pakistan, but this was by far the largest. The young lady who was the focal point of this affair is the daughter of a couple who run own one of the electronic stores in Singaraja. It looked like every Indonesian-Chinese person in Singaraja was in attendance. I happen to have an aversion to social events, but we attended as a sign of respect for people that we’ve known for close to twenty years now. More some other time on the wedding reception.

Monday morning the tile floors on several floors of the house began exploding. We’ve had this problem with a few other rooms in the past and have repaired them. It looks like all the rooms are going to experience the same thing eventually. I don’t understand why this is happening, but it is and I spent about four hours yesterday getting started with tearing up the tiles so that a crew can come in and lay new tile.

I spent three hours working on my Bali book in the afternoon, and then had a few drinks and some private time to talk with my wife while we watched the sun set over the Bali Sea. After dinner, I watched some rather mindless tv for a while but decided  to go to sleep early.

I woke up this morning at six and had finished with breakfast by 8, had a few conversations with my children as they wandered in to eat. My wife took off for the market, and I came upstairs to answer some emails, write a blog post, and do some editing of the Bali book.

OK, there’s a brief description of the last three days. What are the lessons?
1. Retirement means having more to do than time to do it in. I had a list of 29 things to do on Saturday night; by Tuesday afternoon, I had finished 12 of them. There is definitely not going to be a lack of things to do. The problem during my first retirement ten years ago was that I never set any goals for the day or the week, and thus spent my time hanging out with buddies drinking because I didn’t have anything that I felt committed to getting done.

2. If you’re not an exceptionally social person (yes, that’s me), you need to make yourself go out and take part in the social life of your community at least to some extent. While I didn’t have a great time at the reception, I did feel good about showing up and letting my friends know that I appreciated their invitation and the importance of their daughter’s wedding in their life. First time around, I skipped every invitation, no matter how important, and effectively isolated myself from friends, neighbors and family.

3. It is very easy to waste time when you have nothing particularly demanding of your time. Retirement means time to do your own things, not time to do nothing. I can sit and play backgammon on the computer all day or watch endless television shows, but is that what I want to do with the rest of my life? Getting involved in life means building a structure and a set of habits that will help get you out of bed even when you don’t need to. You need to spend some time working out your priorities and write them down. Looking at them helps when you start to drift into mindless activities.

4. Maintaining the high that I felt during the first few days of retirement is something that needs to be worked at, just like a marriage, after the flush of freedom dissipates. It is very easy to lapse into a indifferent attitude towards life if you don’t take the time to remind yourself how lucky you actually are and what a special thing life is.

5. Family, family, family. If you used spending time with your family to explain your decision to quit working, spend the time with them. Make sure that you remain intimately involved with the family. Working 12 hour days for 30 years may have made it difficult to be as involved with your family’s daily life as you wanted to be; now you have the time, do it.

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~ by drbrucepk on July 8, 2008.

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