Retirement Offers Freedom, If We Can Seize It

Talk about serendipity! I’ve recently started a blog called “Retirement Made Simple,” and suddenly, today, I stumble upon the best definition of retirement I’ve ever read.

“We don’t have to be who we were yesterday. We don’t have to live on auto-pilot anymore. You have permission to let go, spread your wings, and be who your heart is telling you to be.”

This is what my work life felt like, more often than not

This is what my work life felt like, more often than not

Isn’t that what the first day of retirement ought to feel like? We truly have the opportunity, if we can seize it, to make a clean break from yesterday. We are free of the perpetual rat race of work, commute, dress for success, bow down before the corporation, sacrificing our individuality — and maybe our health — on the altar of profit. We can, perhaps for the first time, live as the person we really are, or really want to be.

The above quote is from a blog post titled “You Have Permission,” over at a new blog called “Hippy.ish.”  What an awesome blog! It’s written by a young woman who doesn’t fit the traditional image of a retired person. In fact, she’s not retired at all. She has a young child. She’s a person who is, as she says, “Chasing A Life of More Based On Less.” Her way of life and goals are not necessarily shared by most retired people. I think she has a lot of wisdom about “minimalism” to share with all people, retired and otherwise. The point is, we have freedom!

A clean break from yesterday. Daunting words, frightening or at least unsettling words, for those of us living life in a rut. Not ideal words, but the best I can come up with. Note that a clean break, taken literally or to the extreme, is not necessary, and not necessarily in our best interests. Change is always stressful, often frightening. For most of us, a measured transition, a gradual letting go, might be the better way to implement change.

Retirement might look more like a serene waterfall.

Retirement might look more like a serene waterfall.

A clean break does not imply a complete break. We can keep active the friendships we had at work. We can remain an interested observer in a lifelong profession, if we wish. But we aren’t required to do so. We are free!

Or rather, we have the opportunity of freedom, if we are able to seize it. Many of us, if we’re brought to the very edge of freedom, might choose not to fly. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Not for others to judge.

Some of us are among the fortunate few who’ve been flying all along, as real as can be. We might already have responsibilities to fulfill outside the realm of paid work. Or promises to keep. Taking care of family members or friends comes to mind. We might have satisfying roles at church or in the community that we intend to continue. We might already reside in our dream house! We wouldn’t change the status quo at all, except for not setting the alarm clock and going to our accustomed job every day.

I don’t count myself in that group. I’ve rarely had work I enjoyed. The job was mostly a grind, something I must do to earn a living, not something I would choose to do. In later years, full-time work consumed most of my time and energy. I didn’t get a lunch hour, or a lunch half-hour. I needed the weekend to recuperate and pull myself together for another week of drudgery. I suspect that’s pretty much the standard experience of the working person.

To be sure, retirement will bring new challenges. Mountains to climb, or maybe only rocks to scramble over. We will have some freedom to choose our mountains. But life never offers total freedom. (Photos by John Hayden)

To be sure, retirement will bring new challenges. Mountains to climb, or maybe only rocks to scramble over. We will have some freedom to choose our mountains. But life never offers total freedom. (Photos by John Hayden)

However, even if my life has NOT been satisfying or fulfilling, the prospect of seizing freedom is problematic. Do I even know how to fly? Do I have the courage to walk out the prison door when it opens? Now that I have freedom at last, what is it that I want or need to do?

We can expect barriers. Simple inertia. Laziness. Apathy. Poverty. Sickness. Fear.

We have choices. Some retirees, especially men, might sit down in the recliner and watch television until they die.

Family and friends will be uncomfortable with change. But most of all, I will be uncomfortable. Do I even have a clue what I want to do? I’ll press the issue one step farther.

Do I know what I’m called to do with the rest of my life? Sorry. The rest of my life is the wrong question.

How long is the rest of my life, anyway? None of us knows. Rarely can we see years ahead. The most I can reasonably expect is light for the next step. Those words are not original with me. “Light for the next step.” I picked up the concept at a weekend conference years ago. I’ve kept my eyes open for light ever since, but rarely have I seen it. Usually, I feel my way along cautiously in something like a fog.

We’ve come to the crux of the matter now. At every crossroads in life, what we need is discernment.

Retirement is no different. That’s a good stopping point for tonight. Discernment.

8 thoughts on “Retirement Offers Freedom, If We Can Seize It

  1. ninamishkin

    It’s been my experience that if you take just one step in a direction different from the road along which you’ve been plodding, you’ll be in a slightly different place. (I speak metaphorically, not necessarily geographically.) And the view from that place will be sufficiently different than the view from the first, usual place, that it will offer at least one or two other appealing new possibilities, any one of which will take you further. As you say, most of us can’t know everything that could lie ahead once we’re “free.” Rather than ask “free for what?” — think of post-retirement life as freedom to explore, incrementally. Some steps may turn out to be mistakes. But you’re also free to backtrack! It’s really a sort of adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Editor (Retired) Post author

      I agree. Not only that, if you take just one more step along the same road that you’ve started plodding, you’ll also be in a slightly different place. Every step holds the promise, or at least the possibility, of light for the next step. You are so right, Nina, as usual. It is an adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hippyish

    Thanks for including me in the inspiration! I am excited to follow your 3rd Chapter and see what you decide to do with your newfound freedom! I suspect you will do amazing things: untethering, unwinding, and fully accepting your beautiful self just the way you are. You have a voice that needs to be heard, life experience that needs to be shared, and now your life is your canvas that you may paint any way you wish!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Editor (Retired) Post author

      Thank you, I know I will learn a lot from your blog. I’ve always aspired to simplicity, but never quite achieved it. Retirees often face diminishing financial resources and physical powers. Minimalism, rather than materialism, might be a wise choice, under the circumstances.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jean

    An opportunity of freedom plus the responsibility to use it wisely is a great way to think about retirement. I have thought about it as turning a new page in the book of my life and being able to write anything i want on that page. Mary Lloyd (in her book Supercharged Retirement) argues that making the most of retirement involves answering three questions: (1) What do i want to keep in my life? (2) What do I want to change? (3) How do I make it happen?
    I imagine the stress of retirement is greater for those whose work was not satisfying; there’s so much pressure to make up for all that in retirement. I’m looking forward to being a witness as you learn to fly in your new life.


  4. Pingback: Retirement Made Simple, A Brave New Blog | JOHN HAYDEN REPORTING

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