I was on vacation last week at an idyllic spot on the Big Island of Hawaii that my husband and I used to frequent many years ago. This was our first trip back there in over 10 years. As I walked along the beach my first morning there, I found myself thinking about those earlier visits many, many years ago.
I thought about how young we were, and of all the things we had hoped for in our future, and it made me unexpectedly a little sad. After a few days I came to realize why. When I was working, fantasizing about my future gave me an extraordinary amount of pleasure and I miss that!
Thinking about a future vacation, or my future retirement, or really any future plan, was an escape from the mundane business of going to work each day. Obsessing about whatever future plans I had was the thing that got me through the workweek.
Now that I'm retired, I'm living in that future and have nothing to escape from. It turns out that while I don't miss the actual working part, I do miss the obsessing about my future part. Having something to obsess about is part of who I am. Having something happy to think about off in my future helped me to not have to focus so much on the actual working-to-get-there part.
I don't mourn the loss of that job, I mourn the loss of my distraction from that job: dreaming about my future. Since there's nothing I want to escape anymore, I don't fantasize about the future anymore, and I now realize how much I miss doing that!
Figuring out what I was going to spend my days doing in retirement was not the hard part--I don't even have time to do all the things I want to do. The hard part is recapturing that orientation toward the future.
Perhaps I've got it all wrong. Maybe the point isn't to keep focusing on the future but to start remembering how to relish the present moment.
I must admit, I did relish arriving home late Sunday night knowing that I did not have to get up in the morning and go to work. I guess that's a start!
I once had a vacation almost ruined by a threatened airline pilots strike. What almost ruined it, though, was not that we didn't get to go--it was that the whole month of January (when we were supposed to be fantasizing about a week in Key West) we were worrying about whether we'd get to go.
That month of fantasizing was an important part of the vacation--as important as the trip itself.
Still, even though yearning to be retired may have been a key part of your hopes and dreams in the past, surely you still have hopes and dreams. If the projects that you've had in mind don't excite you to fantasies, maybe you need some new projects. More likely, though, you just need to practice some new fantasies.
Are you familiar with the book "Happier" by Tal Ben-Shahar? He talks a lot about the need to balance current gratification with hopes for future gratification. I wrote a review here:
(By the way, we did get to Key West and had a great time.)
Posted by: Philip Brewer | October 07, 2008 at 07:04 AM
Phillip: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I can tell you know what I'm talking about. I do think I need to get a little inspired for what's next on the fantasy list. Thanks for the book recommendation!
Posted by: Retired Syd | October 07, 2008 at 05:44 PM
Thanks for the comment over on Wise Bread.
I'm looking forward to reading a bit about your hopes and dreams here!
Posted by: Philip Brewer | October 08, 2008 at 05:55 AM
One thing that I learned in my "Big 4" days is two words - "be present". From then on, my attitude to many things in life changed, for good.
I've enjoyed all of the posts that I've read so far, Syd. Looks like it will be a while before I get to my "to dos". :-)
Posted by: Travelphotoperspectives.blogspot.com | July 01, 2010 at 05:48 PM
This is a great topic....I am 50...probably quit at 56...your article is unique....
Posted by: Sam in Pittsburgh | September 14, 2010 at 06:33 PM
I agree with this: "Perhaps I've got it all wrong. Maybe the point isn't to keep focusing on the future but to start remembering how to relish the present moment."
It's actually a difficult learning curve, learning to live in the present moment. That's been my self-assignment since I retired.
I've adopted a Rumi phrase as my modus operandi: "Human being, not human doing."
Now I'm finding it's a big bonus of no longer *having* to do anything, having nobody else directing my days -- I'm able to focus on the present moment. Able to just do what I'm doing now and, only when it suits me, move on to the next thing. Take each moment as it comes, and enjoy it completely.
Finally arriving at a stage of life when I'm "allowed to" live in the moment is awesome.
Posted by: KateB | May 30, 2011 at 10:20 AM
Live in the present. Every day is a gift.
Posted by: Pauline | January 26, 2012 at 03:00 PM