Ok, I know all those of you that are not yet retired think that when you retire you will have eight extra hours available to you each and every week day.
I'm here to tell you it's not true.
Here's how the math works in retirement: 8 (hours you used to work) minus 0 (hours you work now) = 2. That's right, you heard me. When you retire, all you wind up with is 2 extra hours a day.
First, let's start with the morning routine. When I worked, I got up at 6 am, read my email and then worked out for an hour. Then I showered, drank my coffee in the car as I drove to work, and ate my breakfast at my desk. By lunchtime, I had worked out, showered, eaten breakfast, AND put in four hours of work. (Well, at least I was physically at my desk for four hours. You know what I mean by "work.")
Post retirement: I definitely don't get up at 6 am, heck, the sun's not even up, why would I open my eyes in the dark? More like 8:00 . . . or so. I check email, drink a cup of coffee, then another one while I scan the headlines and read a few blog posts. Eventually, I get in a workout and a shower. And now it's lunchtime.
Net morning math: no extra hours. In the time that I would have been at work for four hours, I have accomplished roughly the same personal tasks I would have if I were still working, although at a MUCH slower pace.
Now, on to lunch. When I worked, I usually met a friend for a quick lunch. I would hurry back to the office so I wasn't gone too much longer than an hour. Now, I drive to meet a friend for lunch, I never hurry, and usually lunch is about two hours. On the way back, I might return some library books, or swing by the grocery store.
So, I'm home by about 2:30 and I've still done roughly the same thing as I would have done while working, Well, except the actual working part.
Since the budget now requires me to clean my own house and do my own gardening, I try to squeeze in an hour or so when I get home. By the time I'm done and all cleaned up, it's 4 o'clock. I would have been home in two hours if I were still working (and did I mention, the cleaning and the gardening would have been done BY SOMEONE ELSE?)
That's right, two hours left to do all those things I thought I would be spending my days on in retirement, reading, blogging, knitting, or maybe even cooking dinner.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I love the slow pace of my new life. I just want to warn those of you that are thinking about all those zillions of things you will do when you retire. You really only have two more hours a day than you did when you were working.
We just got back from a short trip to Vegas to celebrate my first post-retirement birthday. We met up with friends for some great meals and even had a good time losing a little money at the gambling tables.
When it was time to go, we hopped the shuttle to the airport just as it began to snow. By the time we got to the airport, there were a couple of inches of snow piled up on the parked cars and dusting the palm trees lining the airport boulevard.
It's very unusual to get snow in Las Vegas, but as anyone knows who has ever been to Vegas, there's really no such thing as unusual there. From pyramids to volcanoes, the Eiffel Tower to the canals of Venice, there is just so much over-the-top on the Strip that nothing surprises you. Not even snow on palm trees.
Unfortunately, the snow created extremely low visibility and all flights were canceled. Snowed-in in Vegas, we built our snow cave. Having the necessary equipment, a VISA card, laptop, and cell phone, I booked another recession-priced room, Doug booked flights for the next day, and we hopped the shuttle back to the Strip.
Thank goodness our snow cave was in the land of all-you-can-eat buffets. If we were stuck somewhere that required building an actual snow cave, I know I would not be here to tell the story.
With no jobs to get back to, we took the itinerary change in stride. The big problem for us was that we already used up all our Las Vegas energy in two days. I suppose if we knew we were staying three nights, we would have paced ourselves. But since we were unprepared for the spontaneous-extension of our vacation, we couldn't drink another drop of alcohol, even if it was free. We couldn't face another mega-restaurant, and we certainly didn't have the stamina to stay up until 2 am to lose more money.
Yes, definitely there is such a thing as too much Sin City. Total indulgence in the excesses of the Strip is what makes Vegas so much fun, but 48 hours is about as much non-stop fun as this girl can take.
Today and yesterday, I moved this pile of decomposed granite (it was originally 4 cubic yards--about double this size) to this wheelbarrow:
I then wheeled this wheelbarrow to this garden and emptied it into these piles:
I then raked the piles flat and used this twenty pound tool to stamp down the granite:
At the end of the day yesterday, I asked my husband, "Remind me again why I quit my job?"
"What do you mean?"
"When I worked, I wrote a check to someone else to do this. Then after a long day of sitting on my ass all day at work, I came home to see completed landscaping. Remind me again why I decided to quit my job and do this stuff myself?"
"Because it's way more rewarding than doing tax returns."
And as I sip my WELL DESERVED martini tonight, I can be proud of myself for eight hours of backbreaking work instead of drinking because I'm so sick of doing tax returns.
A couple of days ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar wrote a review of the book, Outliers. I haven't read the book yet, but I had seen the author, Malcolm Gladwell, last week discussing it on all the talk shows.
The subject is success, and Gladwell shows that raw talent has less to do with success than I had thought. While he discusses many of the other factors that are more important than talent, the one I find the most encouraging is the 10,000 hour rule.
When I was young, I spent some time dabbling in activities like gymnastics, piano, tennis, and singing. As I got older, I also tried drawing, knitting, painting, and now writing. I've pretty much always operated under the assumption that if I wasn't great at something right off the bat, I lacked the raw talent, and would never become really good at that endeavor. So, I never stuck with any of them.
I figured I hadn't found my "true talent," because I hadn't found the thing I was good at right from the get go.
While, of course, there must be a bit of talent to make someone truly successful at something, the great news from Gladwell's book is that, really, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice for someone to really excel.
To some that may sound like terrible news, TEN THOUSAND HOURS? But for me it gives me hope. My writing isn't where I would like it to be, and I often get impatient and frustrated with the progress. But the thing is, I love it. I want to do it even if I'm not any good at it. So how great is it to know, that if I keep at it, I might actually be a real writer someday?
I know 10,000 hours is a whole lot of time, but now I have an actual excuse for the practice of writing. It doesn't feel like idle, wasted hours. It's not just something I like doing, it's also something I actually can get better at.
For all of you that kept at your piano lessons and drawing classes, I suppose you already knew this. But for me, it's a very exciting thing to learn, even if it did take me nearly 45 years.
I gained some retirement insight last week when my writing teacher assigned us the exercise of writing ourselves as a preposition. Yeah, I didn't really get it either, but here's what landed on the paper:
"I'm in between before and after. I retired from my job earlier this year, and am living right now, before what's next."
Before I retired, there was only before (working), and after (retired). I thought that as soon as I clocked out of my last day at work I would be retired. If only it were that seamless.
First, there is in between.
Today, Sylvia posted about walking around in a "brain cloud" since she retired a month ago. That fog is familiar to me. Why we expect the transition to be instantaneous when we are renovating our entire lives, I don't know. What I do know is that you don't wake up the day after your last day at work and suddenly start living the life that you had in mind for yourself that very morning.
Sylvia touched on this today in her post. She writes that she is "struggling to make this transition, which is proving to be more challenging than I'd anticipated. Somehow I guess I thought that since I was giving this a lot of thought beforehand I'd find the actual change quite easy."
But first, there is in between.
I am inspired by where she goes with this rumination: to shifting the focus from what you want to DO in retirement to who you want to BE.
I'm going to noodle on that one a little, while I'm here, in the in between.
I don't remember whose blog I was reading when I read these words, but I do remember the scene. The author was talking about their father, who would engage in a soliloquy of opinion at the dinner table, while the family looked on, listening in silence. An onlooker might have thought that at the end, the family members would contribute their opinions. Instead, when he finished his diatribe he would say, "Well, that's the way I see it, maybe you see it differently."
That strikes me now as very efficient.
On Friday night, we were out with some friends. They were telling us about a recent homework assignment of their eighth grade daughter's. She was supposed to bring home the following questions to pose to her parents: "Think of a time where you debated an issue with someone and you were able to convince the other person to change their mind. How did this make you feel about yourself? How did this make you feel about the other person?"
Well it's a good thing we don't have kids, we would have flunked this assignment. I racked my brain and could not think of even ONE time when, as a consequence of a discussion or debate about an issue, I was ever able to convert someone with an opposing view, to mine. Not one. (On the flip side, I can't think of one time when someone with an opposing view convinced me to change my opinion either.) Maybe there have been some, but it's fair to say it would have been a rare occurrence.
Is it just me, or is this the outcome of most debates among people? And if it is, why on earth do we spend so much time writing our opinions in blog posts, listening to political debates between the talking heads on cable news shows, and having heated discussions with our friends at dinner parties? It couldn't possibly be because we operate under the illusion that we can actually change people's minds?
I don't think it is. I think the sharing of our opinions is just one of the many ways we humans make a connection with each other. Whether we are in agreement or not, we are connecting with another person. I think it's that connection we are looking for, not the chance to sway opinion.
A while back I received the following comments on one of my posts:
"Oh and by the way, I notice you're not actually "deciphering" anything with this blog post as the title insinuates. You're just using it as a grandstand for transparently biased political views, and I guess you honestly believe you're sapient enough to convert the minds of strangers to your way of thinking. . ."
"You have probably met many undecided voters. However, most just give an insincere version of the local party line (mine is the opposite of yours) to avoid conversion/conversation like this."
So, maybe the human connection thing isn't really what everyone's after. Perhaps there are some that are more comfortable in connections where there is mutual agreement.
But for those of us that do like putting our opinions out there for anyone to agree or disagree with, I find Peggy Noonan's quote from an October 2008 Wall Street Journal column instructional, "You owe your readers not your industry only but your judgment, and you betray instead of serve them if you sacrifice it to what may or may not be their opinion."
Well, that's the way I see it, maybe you see it differently.
One of the really great things about being retired is not having to subject myself to the annual torture known as the performance review. Each year, right about now, I would be writing a page of babble about what I accomplished during the year. I'm so happy to instead be writing a page of babble about why I hated writing that page of babble.
Tonight, I'm taking a moment to savor the fact that I am no longer required to suffer this indignity. Besides avoiding tax season, this is about the best part of not working anymore.
When you've worked in the same job for nearly two decades, it becomes more and more demoralizing each year to participate in this exercise. What did I do this year? How was it different than the gazillions of years that came before? And how on earth do I make it sound important?
And all the time you're really asking yourself, why do we even go through this charade each year? I know it's irrelevant to my raise and bonus, irrelevant to my professional development, and most importantly, unrelated in any way whatsoever to my actual job performance. I'm not entirely convinced anyone actually even read my little essay.
For me, all it ever did was make me crankier than I already was at the holidays. It always felt futile, and for the last few years, it just reminded me how much I lusted after the emancipation of retirement.
I'm coming up on a year of retirement soon, and am more excited about accomplishments of this year than I ever was about my occupational accomplishments. I've read stacks of books, written pages of blog posts, and painted wall after wall of my house. The hours I spent tending my garden, even cleaning my house, produced real, tangible results. I've had the time to take some wonderful writing classes, and to read up on history I never really learned, and economics topics I did learn, but since forgot. Now that's some personal development I feel good about.
I guess the only downside is I'm not getting a raise this year. In fact, the enterprise that is mainly responsible for my income now, namely the stock market, has had a very bad year. It won't be paying any bonuses either.