Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I recently retired from a job of two decades. I care a lot about the
people I used to work with, some of whose lives are in major transition
(divorce, pregnancy, home-buying, etc). I’m not really used to
retirement yet, though I do have hobbies, a house that needs
attention, and a body that needs exercise. But I miss the regularity of
a daily schedule, the social networking that comes with the Hellos and
How are yous? of an office, and the updated news of the people I care
about. I’m tickled to have left behind office politics and deadline
stress. But my life feels flat and uninteresting. And I don’t want to feel
or become useless. I see long decades stretching in front of me. Do
you have any advice about the transition?
64 (But Who’s Counting?)
The best advice I’ve heard given to the newly retired is not to make
any big commitments right away, where right away has been anything
from a few months to a year. I’m sure a year sounds long in your
case, but a bigger danger is filling up your life so quickly that you
never have time to reflect on how to create a new way of living.
A couple of simple suggestions: Keep in touch with the people you
care about from your former job. Talk about their personal lives and
stay in touch. But if the conversations turn to the who-did- what-to-
whom of office politics, put a quick end to that part of the
conversation. Set up a code word. Perhaps something absurd like
Tofu! That you or the friend can use if you skate too close to the edge
of involvement. It won’t last forever but will help in the short run.
Then set up a semi-schedule for your life. Book no more than fifteen
hours a week for things like time at the gym or walking with personal
friends, or taking a class in something you care about. Make lists of
the projects that are calling to you (or that you’re avoiding).
Everything from inventorying hobby supplies to planning a new
creative project. Separately, assess your house and home priorities.
Review your finances and see if you need to make lifestyle changes to
match your new income. (One common trap is to fall into shopping as
a hobby.) Leave yourself open time and space to read and take a nap,
and occasionally just be lazy. Slow down your life so you are not
measuring against deadlines. This will help encourage a long view that
opens up new possibilities. You might volunteer more, join a local
choir, acting troupe, or senior sports team. Look for ways to connect
with people you do not yet know, especially peers who are in a similar
phase of life. Virtually every retired person says after six months, My
life is so busy and full I have no idea how I ever had time to work.