A cousin of mine recently retired and announced it on Facebook. She received so many congratulations you’d have thought she’d won the lottery.
I was one of the 41 people – yes, I counted – offering best wishes. I felt a little sorry for her since, as a very considerate person, she felt obliged to respond 15 times – yes, I counted those, too – to say thanks or offer to get together soon.
I shared the effervescence of those with no apparent disdain for exclamation points by offering up their versions of “Yahoo!” or “Congrats!!” or “You Go, Gurl!!!”
My favorite comment, and by far the most original, was from a guy who said, “I am a retired loafer, and I don’t know what to do. I mean, I just can’t sit around the house. That was my JOB!”
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Leave it to a male.
After acknowledging all this Facebook support – that must have consumed upward of two minutes – then feeding the dog, pulling some weeds and tidying up a bit, I’d guess my cousin needed a nap.
Retirement is emotionally draining and what better than a nap to rest up for facing the Great Abyss of Unstructured Time.
I can only speak from my own experience, which for the lack of a better description is Retirement Light. On my birthday earlier this year I cut back at work from full-time to 28 hours, which technically means I’m working 70 percent of the workweek.
There were a couple immediate perks, the most noticeable of which was commuting a little less often and taking most Fridays “off,” although I usually do some work at home.
Quantifying things seems to bring humans comfort, so it’s been tempting to frame my workweek in numbers. For example, I made a point of saying that I’d write two stories for each of the two issues my newspaper publishes each week.
I’ve pretty much stuck to that, but putting commutes in numbers isn’t as easy. As a person who works 70 percent of my former hours, should I commute 3.5 days a week, or maybe average out to that by commuting five times a week and three times a week on alternate weeks?
If I commute 3.5 times, does that mean I have to stay overnight one night?
I’ve decided that a new retiree is like a beginning swimmer who’s thrown into the pool for the first time. The instinct is to latch onto something solid, like numbers.
It’s hard for me to imagine what it must be like for my cousin, who went whole hog by waking up one day working full-time and then the next being retired full-time.
Talk about cold turkey.
To stick with the swimming and flailing metaphors, I’d guess it’s a little like jumping into a cold lake without sticking the toes in first.
Aside from the Facebook contact, I haven’t talked to cuz to see what’s she’s experiencing, although she did say yesterday that she felt like napping.
I feel that all the time, 70 percent retired or not.
I don’t want to pretend that I have this retirement thing sewed up, but I did notice this week that there’s really no reason for me to wrap up the workday and hurry home.
Since I write on the weekend and spread my 28 hours out over seven days, I can often leave work in the middle of the day and not feel guilty. At first, my instinct was to hurry home as if it were 5 p.m.
But really, what was I going to do when I got there – nap, get on the Internet, use an electric device to blow grass from the driveway?
So I started wandering a bit after work, usually looking for some place to go where I can walk and take pictures. I need the exercise and the adventure, but really there’s an added bonus. When I get home I have something else to do – download photos to see if I got anything good.
THEN I can nap, read, play guitar or get on the Internet.
But blowing grass from the sidewalk is where I draw the line. I didn’t do that when I worked 40-plus hours a week, and I’m certainly not doing it now.
Write David at firstname.lastname@example.org.