Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 263 Changing Gears

Shifting gears isn't easy. Think back to when you first learned to drive a stick shift. "Grind me a pound" came the wise comments from our friends. A few mistakes had to be made. Embarrassing? Yes. Defeating? No. We somehow cursed ourselves, swallowed our pride and tried again. With attention, effort and repetitive attempts we found success. Life is like that. We have to learn to shift gears.

This is Retirement Talk.

Retiring calls for learning to shift gears in a big way. We may make a few mistakes. We may grind a few gears as we adjust, but change we must. When Brenda and I retired one of the first things we did was change the hours we went to sleep and the time we got out of bed. During my work life I always envied those folks who could stay up late at night. My job demanded that my clock ring around 5:30am and that demanded a rather early evening for many years. Retirement meant throwing that alarm clock out. And we did. Slowly the novelty of sleeping in wore off and some sense of a natural rhythm has been established. Unfortunately it is different for my wife and I. It is different by about two hours. We go to bed at the same time but she has this natural ability to sleep in. I am up and doing while she yet dreams. We have adjusted.

Dreams, goals or ideals of what retired life will be like sometimes shift. Some cannot adjust to the 24 hour demand of self-direction. They soon find themselves seeking some sort of job. They seek regularity and routine.

Others find many personal goals and dreams scattered on their floor as soon as they jump out of bed. They have things to do. They never look back nor do they desire a daily routine that includes a job. This requires a shifting of gears only to be repeated as often as dreams may fade or morph from one into another.

We can find ourselves without any knowledge as how to proceed. We know we want to move in another direction but we may not be aware of where or how. It is like sitting behind the wheel of that car when we were 15 knowing that we wanted to go somewhere but not knowing exactly where or how. We needed some help, some advice, someone to tell us how to get started. Someone to help making the change. Luckily there are people who have gone before us. That is a break for our side. All we have to do is ask, inquire, admit to our need for assistance.

Help is readily available no matter the goal. Today's electronic library is within easy grasp. We can reach out through the Internet and find out how to do almost anything. As a matter of fact when you type into a search engine the words, "how to ..." you can find advice on almost anything. And I mean anything. I have done this when I really had no hope that I might find some advice or encouragement on such obtuse topics. But it has never failed to be helpful.  "How to disconnect the kitchen faucet from the sink", "How to change the battery on a Concept 2 rowing machine", "How to play the guitar", "How to speak Italian?" "How to set up a web site" "How to record a podcast". It never ends.

Then of course there are Community Colleges that have classes especially designed to help us understand a wide range of topics. I taught one once entitled, "Retired and Traveling to Alaska". I have taken them on Spanish and the Italian language. I've also taken then on "Using Dream Weaver", "Ballroom Dancing", "Classical Guitar" and another on Music Theory. I can hardly think of a topic that my community college would not be willing to teach if asked.

What must be provided by the retiree is the willingness to shift gears. The willingness to be open to change. That is easier for some than others.  We get comfortable in our daily routine. We all know that there is nothing wrong in being comfortable. We don't exactly crave putting ourselves in the position of being uncomfortable. That is where the rub comes in.

Shifting gears puts change into action. We move at a different speed. We move in a new direction. We see different things; meet new people. We face new challenges. Life becomes a bit more unpredictable.

That is what interests me. The unpredictable. That is why we took a walk in a new direction this morning. We wanted to wander in a part of the city we didn't know. We wandered into the "edgy' side as clerk in a store described it. It is the seedy side that is changing. It is being gentrified but isn't quite there yet. It is the unpredictable that appeals. And this particular walk proved most surprising and interesting.

That's not for everyone. Some people find their interest early in life and stick with it. That is something I can only imagine. As young folks we are always advised to find our "bliss" or whatever we really like and then pursue it. The ideal life is one in which we are doing what we love to do and get paid for it. We work at what we like, we are doing good, and we are making a livelihood. We want to stay with it until the day we die.

But for those of us who love change, novelty or the unusual this advice changes as our nightly dreams fade in and out. We are called on to constantly find ourselves behind the steering wheel of a vehicle that is new to us. We have to learn how it works. We have to adjust to change. We live at the edge of our comfort zone. Our bliss comes in shifting gears. We may as well embrace it.

This is Retirement Talk.

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