A lot of people look forward to retirement so that they can spend time on hobbies they have neglected over the years, or even develop some new interests. Some look forward to contributing some time to an organization they feel passionately about since they will no longer have to spend the bulk of their time working and commuting. And others picture spending more time in physical activities, perhaps training for a specific challenge or learning a new sport.
I was no different. I had my weeks all sketched out. I had a long list of formerly abandoned hobbies I wanted to spend more time on. I knew exactly where I wanted to volunteer and looked forward to getting in the best shape of my life. But then something happened. I retired.
Before I retired, I did some form of exercise about ten hours a week. I figured when I retired I would enjoy even more activity. Now that I’m retired, I still exercise about ten hours a week. The difference is that it used to be in a gym near my office and now it’s on my bike or on foot on my neighborhood’s winding roads, or at the local hot yoga studio. Sometimes it’s not exercise for exercise sake but for the sake of getting a clean house or a beautiful garden. But the bottom line is I don’t spend much more time exercising than when I was working.
I definitely spend a lot more time on travel. We were out of town nearly 3 months last year, and the time it took to arrange all that while staying within the budget was almost like having a part-time job.
But I think it’s hard to know exactly what you really want to do in retirement until you’re actually in it and making the choice to do this over that. I thought I would spend hours at the piano but I’ve barely touched it in the two and a half years I’ve been retired. Instead I spend those hours reading and writing. Writing was not even on my list when I retired, it’s a passion I discovered after I retired, something I gravitated toward as I let myself evolve into the retired version of myself.
With my remaining free hours, I haven’t yet taken the plunge with a volunteer commitment. I have the extra time now, so shouldn’t I be out filling up that time with something? Shouldn’t I be scheduling up all those extra hours?
Here’s the thing: I love having the extra time. I could take more classes, pick up a new hobby, or volunteer, but I love having the luxury of time. I love deciding right now what I want to be doing right now, not having to squeeze in downtime between my schedule of activities.
I know it can look to the outside world like I’m not “doing” enough, like maybe I’m not accomplishing anything. But that’s one of the reasons I wanted to retire, so I could stop having to squeeze time in for myself between all my other commitments. So I could luxuriate in time, not just fill it with activity after activity after activity.
Some people need that structure, that constant pull of one thing to the next. And those people should go right ahead and fill up that schedule with all those activities. But for those of us that crave flexibility, spontaneity and time to just be, go right ahead and enjoy the gift of time, even though to others, it may look like you’re wasting it.
This is a post from Retirement: A Full-Time Job