Discovering the Freedom to Take Care of Myself!

A lot of what I’ve read about successful aging addresses the need for exercise.  From what I’ve read, exercise can improve our mood, help us maintain a healthy body weight, improve cardiovascular function, and help keep our brains healthy. That all sounds great, but as a pragmatic optimist, I realize there are no guarantees about the future. I also realize that no matter what I do, I am still going to experience many of the typical signs of aging such as slowing down, feeling more aches and pains, having some hearing loss, and changes in my vision, among other physical changes. Still, I can take certain actions to improve the likelihood of a long and healthy life.

Because I am no longer tied to an employer’s work expectations, I now have the flexibility and time to exercise just about every day. I usually like to go for a comfortable jog in the morning for 40-50 minutes. Often, I enjoy starting out by jogging along a pond near my house. Later I try to do some strength and balance activities and often do some walking.  I can’t say that I’ve dropped much weight because I still love to eat too many nuts and pieces of fruit (albeit healthy) as much as I love exercising. Nonetheless, I do know that increased activity is good for my body and soul.

When I start out around the pond or down the road for a jog, I feel like any stress I might be carrying starts to fall away. I typically jog up a couple hills; this part of my workout definitely elevates my heart rate. I also use this time to think and meditate.

Transitioning into my new life has had its challenges, but there are a lot of things I’m already loving. I now have the freedom to take time for my needs and my own health. I am learning how to live my best life. Now each day is a great day!   What about you? I hope you are finding ways to take care of yourself too. I hope each day for you is also a great day!

The Science and Art of Retirement

Because I read everything I could get my hands on about retirement three years before I began my new life, I was prepared for the key elements needed to launch a new course. I knew it would be important to make sure I was financially prepared. I knew it would also be important to develop some structure, to have some meaningful activities or sense of purpose,  to cultivate new friendships, to get sufficient exercise, to eat right, to keep my mind and spirit engaged, etc., etc. I started doing most of those things before I left work. I’ve continued to do those things since leaving work. I’d call that part of retirement preparation the ‘science’ piece.

From my reading, I also knew that part of the ‘science of retirement’ is that there is no longer a single meaning to retiring. ‘Retirement’ in the 21st Century could mean working part-time, starting a new job, a new career, developing a business, or any number of different choices. After all, many of us could still have 20, 30 or more years yet to make our mark and live our lives to the fullest. Realizing the potential ahead, I carefully planned a new venture that excited me. What I hadn’t thought about was the process of learning and regaining a sense of competence I had when working.

The Art of Retirement: Gaining Confidence in Competence

I’m learning that there is also an ‘art’ to retirement beyond having all the required pieces in place. For me, part of that art is to feel confident in my competence again. When I was teaching, I knew what I was doing and had expertise in my field. Other people recognized my expertise as well. Because of my work, I felt confident in my competence.

Because I’m home a bit more, I feel compelled and sometimes even expected to be a bit more of a domestic goddess than I really am. I’m an okay cook but have a few special dishes that fool people. I don’t sew, and I really don’t do anything crafty around the house. I do some basic maintenance (painting walls as needed, etc.), and do some gardening. I can keep things picked up enough and dusted enough so the house usually looks presentable. For the most part, my partner/spouse and I split some of the chores. I am willing to do what needs to be done, but I am almost frightened at the thought of becoming my mother after so many years of working as a professional outside the home. Because that’s not really how I see myself, it is not likely to ever happen. Instead, I’m learning to develop a new identity.

I see part of my identity as a professional woman who keeps learning and creating things that benefit others. The way I have chosen to work on the ‘professional’ part of my identity is to start building a business and community from the ground up.

Today I met with my web designer and now ‘web coach’ who has been helping me learn some things I need to know about developing an online web community. Fortunately, he’s a very good teacher. I would never have imagined choosing to embrace technology to the degree I’ve needed to do in the last few months.

Like anyone learning new skills, making a major life change requires patience, practice, and some support. I’m enjoying the journey. I know that I’ll eventually feel like I know enough about what I’m doing to really enjoy the ride.

Learning about the Transition Process: From the Workplace

to a New Life

It’s been two months since I turned my office key in and drove away from the campus where I had worked (and practically lived) for over 14 years.

I knew it would be normal to go through different transition phases when I officially ‘retired’ from my career position. Yet, somehow because I knew what to expect, I thought maybe I’d be spared the discomfort that goes along with making a major change. No such luck!

Phase One of the Transition Process

Usually when people make major changes like moving, getting divorced, leaving home, or retiring, there are predictable phases that most all of us experience.  Loss or even a sense of grief is often the first phase people recognize. For me, that phase occurred while I was still teaching. Not only had all of us at the college literally gone through a loss because of a mass shooting, we had also lost some valued traditions because of institutional changes. I grieved those losses and changes. In addition, many of the faculty and staff who were once part of our campus community had long moved on.

Moving into Phase Two

When I didn’t have to start a new term in January, I felt relieved. I already had a clear idea of what I wanted my new life to look like.

Now I finally get to exercise every morning and take walks with my husband and the dog in the afternoon. Or on occasion I play a game of checkers with my husband so I can have the pleasure of watching him win every single game- at least so far. I even have the freedom to take off at will and visit a friend to go wine tasting when I wish.  I have set times (and days) when I work on business development and other projects. Yet I still feel a bit uneasy. Why is that?

The Uneasiness of Phase Two

I’m clearly going through another transition phase. I like my new life. It’s what I wanted, but it’s different. I don’t feel oriented in the same way to time. I think for me, that’s a big one. At the end of each day, I wonder where time went?  I think part of the answer is that I’m spending more time doing the things I want to do like exercising, doing tasks thoroughly, spending more time with people I care about, and working on my new life project. All these activities require me to use time in a different way – in a less rigid way. I’m no longer doing tasks in 50 minute or two-hour segments like when I was teaching. I’m doing things based on my own schedule and priorities. I’m having to adjust to this new way of living.

Looking Ahead

I was reminded when reviewing literature on transitions that it is often helpful to think about other life changes each of us has successfully navigated. Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of losses and new beginnings. Yes, I’ve grieved, I’ve felt disoriented when experiencing changes, and then I’ve been able to move on.

Even though I had hoped I’d hoped that all of my reading and preparation would help me avoid the normal discomfort that comes with making a major life change, I do know it is normal. As my life continues to take on new rhythms, those will become my new normal. In the meantime, I’m learning in the process.

1/31/2018: New Beginning

I always wanted to teach full-time at a community college. I’d taught for several years part-time while
holding down other full-time positions. When I finally got an invitation to teach full-time, I was already a
grandmother. Nonetheless, I enjoyed over 14 years in my encore teaching position at a small community
college in Southern Oregon.

Letting Go

December 7th, 2018 was the day I handed over my parking pass, office key, and identification card. I had
planned for my last day over a period of three years. In just 2018 alone, I had read 37 books on
retirement and also reviewed at least 3-4 different retirement articles almost every evening. I knew
what to expect and was excited about all that waited for me in retirement.

Nonetheless, when I walked out of my office for the last time, I was surprised to experience what felt
like a ‘gut punch.’ I knew that it would be unlikely that I’d see most of my colleagues again. I wouldn’t
spend another term working with students – most of whom had been delightful over the years. Also, I
would no longer enjoy the beautiful view from my office window – the campus fountain, wild turkeys
wandering around the grounds, and occasional deer that would gather within a few feet of my view.

When I carried my box of personal belongings out to my car and drove away, my throat tightened, and
my chest felt heavy. No matter how prepared I thought I was, experiencing at least some sense of loss
was probably inevitable.

A New Beginning

After a couple of days, I enthusiastically started anticipating the new life I’d prepared for before officially
retiring. I knew I was ready. My husband and I had already discussed what it might be like to have me
home most of the time; we both assume that we’ll have to do some (or maybe a lot of) adjusting. We’d
both shared what we expected regarding together time and personal or ‘business’ time. We’d also discussed some ‘together’ routines such as days we’d both go to the gym. We even planned our first post-retirement trip; in the late spring, we’re going to drive to the Grand Canyon.

I decided I wanted to start playing the piano again after letting it sit idle for nearly 15 years. I let my
husband know about this plan and told him that I’d like to do a little oil painting or maybe some stained
glass work again as well. He was very supportive and told me he enjoyed hearing me play the piano. I
quickly let him know that I needed to do more practicing than playing right now.

Over the past year, I cultivated some new friendships outside of work. One of those new friends has become
my walking pal. I’m meeting with another friend next week who enjoys going wine tasting.

About two years ago, I also began making healthier eating choices so that I could improve my chances of
a healthy retirement. I now eat more salads now and generally stay away from red meat except for a
small piece of steak on Saturdays. I still enjoy a regular evening glass of red wine. Some studies suggest
any amount of wine isn’t healthy, but other studies argue that a moderate amount of red wine is good
for healthy aging. (I’m sticking with the studies that support my own bias because I enjoy that evening
glass of wine!

In addition to changes in my diet, I also started adding some balance activities to my exercise routines
about 18 months ago. I realized that one bad fall could significantly affect my potential for a healthy,
active retirement.

Boomer Best U Begins

By the end of my 2018 summer break, I had developed a business plan for Boomer Best U, met a few
times with the Small Business Development Center, met with an accountant and filed state and federal
documents.

The first week after my retirement, I eagerly started working on my new project. I have to admit,
starting an online community and business feels a bit daunting right now. I’m very excited, but I also
realize I have a lot to learn. In part, my passion for life-long learning is why I wanted to develop Boomer
Best U in the first place. I love to research and to share what I learn with others. At the same time, I
know I’ll learn plenty from all of you.

Thanks for joining me on this new adventure. I can’t wait to hear from you!
What are some activities that you’re anticipating in retirement? What steps have you taken to
prepare yourself for your best retirement possible.

 

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