How are you enjoying retirement?
It’s a frequently asked question from my still-working colleagues and friends as they greet me. That is a loaded question.
They mean well, I know. They probably really wish that they were retired. Working full-time is exhausting. I just smile and mumble something like, “It’s good.” But, really? Really, it’s a lot more layered than that.
How are you enjoying retirement? That’s the way people ask about a holiday but it’s not a holiday. It’s not all sunshine and buttercups, although there is more time to appreciate both. My strongest feelings when I first retired were relief, and then guilt and simmering anxiety.
The relief came from abandoning the constant barrage of duties and pressures to produce at work. For a teacher that meant no more lesson planning, marking, dealing with unruly students, report cards, IEPs and the list goes on. Putting all that down and walking away from it was liberating. Not having to set up a classroom in September and steel myself for the beginning of the onslaught was freeing. I do miss my colleagues and spending my days learning with the students (most of them). But I was exhausted and I’d done my time. I’m relieved to be done.
The relief was quickly replaced by something I did not expect: guilt. People are going to work every day. Family and friends are getting up early every weekday and going to work and then coming home drained. I am not, anymore. I am not contributing to society by making money. It feels wrong. I feel guilty. A good friend, who is a couple of years ahead of me on this retirement journey, told me that she also felt guilty at first, but that it will pass.
Then there’s that simmering anxiety. That’s a tricky one and a feeling that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’m sleeping, exercising and eating better and more regularly than I ever have. I can take time to see friends and walk the dog. What have I to be anxious about? And yet it’s there, simmering away telling me that I’m old now.
How am I enjoying retirement? Well, it’s a new stage of my life and it’s a mixture of emotions.
Maybe a better question would be, “What have you been up to lately?”