Believe it or not, a full year has passed from last Halloween, the day I retired from active federal service. So I thought it was time to take stock and consider what surprised me and what didn’t about retirement.
First, I loved my work, but I don’t miss it at all. I miss the people, who are some of the most talented, dedicated public servants you could imagine. I still follow current events, and wonder sometimes about the “rest of the story” behind the headlines, but that is as far as the itch goes. That was then, this is now.
Second, you really must have some hobbies, commitments, or things you want to do with those hours that are suddenly all yours. Yes, you’ll sleep-in longer, take naps, eat leisurely meals, read those books you always meant too, and maybe even work out regularly. Guess what? I did, and there is still more time available on your clock. I have covered my new interests in past blog posts, but everyone who retires faces this key question: what do you want the next chapter of your life to be about? For the married and retired crowd, it is important to pick up some mutual interests. Yes, every couple needs alone time, but all relationships are either strengthening or weakening, and you can’t improve what you don’t work on together. For example, I ditched running, and Judy and I hike and work out at the gym together. I can easily see how couples who retire and don’t plan ways to spend time together could grow apart.
Next, we got to spend more–and better–time with our grandkids. Scheduling out visits with four working adults was always stressful, and put a lot of pressure on the actual visit. Now we can adjust to our kids schedules, and that makes it so much easier. We are still figuring out the fly/drive options, the week/weekend options, the summer/school year options, and (oh yeah) the holidays! We don’t have it perfected yet, but man was it great getting to spend “days-n-days” with grandkids.
Stuff: we have a lot less of it! Once we got into the habit of not routinely acquiring things we saw or heard about, and then got rid of what we had acquired by putting it to the “do we really need this?” test, the burden of owning stuff mostly evaporated. It feels so much better, costs a lot less, and I can only think of one or two things I got rid of that I later thought I should have saved.
Mexico? Mexico has delivered as promised: less cost, less stress, great quality of life. The US President’s need to constantly berate Mexico has driven the Peso down and caused some irritation among the proud Mexican people, but they easily distinguish between what the US government says and does, and their expat neighbors (so far)!
Judy’s health has been outstanding; I feel the best I have in years, but have been plagued by a series of minor issues: higher cholesterol, some other blood work numbers out of kilter, more cavities, a nagging cold/cough/allergy of some sort, and that health scare right after we arrived here. The best news is the quality of the doctors and dentists has been good, and the costs really low. Judy will get a tooth crowned next week for about $200. We finally figured out how to submit our health insurance claims online back to the States, and the reimbursements have been quick and consistent.
Living in a small town, we have rediscovered what Edmund Burke called “the little platoons” we all belong to: communities. We have groups of friends: the Church group, our neighborhood(s), the Focus group, and so on. These groups continue to expand as we become more active in the expat community. Within each group we have made lasting friends that create a source of mutual assistance, understanding, and resolve.
Finally, my biggest surprise was this: once the stress of work/life was off, I could re-evaluate long-time personality quirks and habits and decide whether they were still necessary. I drive slower–not slowly mind you, but slower than before. And I hardly ever get angry while driving; I’ll get there, God willing, and if someone else needs to cut the line, Vaya Con Dios! I am somewhat less punctual. I still don’t buy into the fashionably late concept, but I don’t feel like I’ll waste the artillery bombardment if I don’t cross the LD on time (military jargon–sorry!). I am enjoying little things more: a sunset, or a hummingbird, or a video-chat about nothing in particular with a grandchild. Judy reminded me there is no Sunday-night-stomach-ache-ahead-of-the-workweek in retirement. She’s right. She’s always right: that is probably the least surprising part of retirement!