My last six posts have all been about the great day we had when we decided NOT to go on a second geology hike 3 weeks ago, and instead wandered our way home stopping at various interesting places – including 3 waterfalls. After the hike the day before we had realized we aren’t really ‘hikers’, for a variety of reasons.
This set me to reflecting on retirement and how it has changed in the 3 short years since we finished at work, moved to a new location, and set up our new life. It’s an ongoing challenge to find the balance between ‘me time’, ‘us time’, social time, and activities (with apologies to those of you still working who probably don’t have time to think about such things)!
I think there are several givens in building an interesting and healthy retirement. We take for granted the need to stay active, to build a social life, to make a contribution to your community, and to keep busy with whatever you choose to do.
I also find it very useful to build some structure and routine in my life, so that I do get up and out every day, even if I don’t really ‘need’ to. A daily walk with the dog helps that. It’s also really important to simply put yourself out there; take the initiative and join in.
Beyond this though, you have a lot of choice.
When we retired I looked forward most to joining in on the many hikes our local Bruce Trail Club sponsors, probably over 100 per year, year-round. But I’ve discovered that this really doesn’t work for me for several reasons – first my health (I just walk slower) and secondly my preference to go slowly, look around, identify things, stop and listen, and take pictures. It’s taken me 3 years to accept my limitations, but I think I have.
This isn’t to say I gave up. Instead I invented ‘Slowpoke Nature Walks’ which I volunteered to lead, and they’ve proven quite popular. Something I’d never thought of before, but it suits me. I also volunteer to help lead their stewardship efforts, a time-consuming commitment, but a useful one. I have the knowledge to contribute, I can manage my own timing, and it’s mostly outdoors – the perfect volunteer job for me.
After moving to a new community there was a lot to do initially to get things settled, but after a few months we connected with several local groups besides the Bruce Trail Club. My wife volunteers with the local Quilting Guild, and we attend a local church which provides not only a spiritual home but a rich and meaningful connection to the local community.
We also joined the Probus Club and its many activity groups. So we enthusiastically signed up for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, potlucks, nature walks, canoeing and photography (which I lead myself). Here’s where the need to find a balance comes in!
Suddenly we were very busy with scheduled activities, meeting all kinds of new people, and developing a few core friendships. In fact it was all a little overwhelming. And in contrast to this, as we got more involved in our own hobbies, (photography and quilting respectively), we wanted more time to ourselves. Both photography and quilting are hobbies that demand a lot of ‘alone time’.
So we shifted gears again and backed away from some of the scheduled activities to do our own thing, but then there’s less social life. Sometimes I think I enjoy life as a hermit, but most of the time I need better balance.
So it’s a continuing matter of finding that balance, not being afraid to try new things, and accepting the changes that come along, choosing to do more of one thing and less of another, setting priorities.
At the moment our ‘me time’ and ‘us time’ is working really well, but I’ll be joining a few of those activity groups this winter a little more often as I keep trying to find the right balance. And we’ll be going on a few more of those expeditions like our drive home 3 weeks ago instead of joining the second geology hike, a day we really enjoyed.
This post was totally different for me, and it was a challenge to write. Comments appreciated.