What Does Retirement Really Mean?


Some see it as a state of stillness. A second childhood. A new chapter. The opportunity to live life rather than merely make a living. Some described it as hell. For others, it has been heaven.

We asked readers to submit their stories of retirement, and almost 1,500 of you responded.

The responses make it clear that retirement is not just one thing. It could be doing nothing, relishing quiet moments in the morning to linger over coffee or walk the dog without rushing. Or it could be an opportunity for reinvention by embracing a new focus in life — perhaps even another form of work, but one with greater satisfaction.

For some responders, retirement has meant freedom or liberation. Many considered themselves lucky. Some were frank about needing time to adjust, saying retirement felt like “jumping off a cliff.” For at least one responder, it has been “a black hole.”

Here is a selection of your retirement stories. The responses have been lightly edited.

Gallatin Gateway, Mont., and Traverse City, Mich.

The last 10 years of my work life meant working six to seven days a week, 12-plus hours a day, building my own company. Now, retirement means waking up with a promise of hope. Alarms are only used when catching airplanes, and exploring the world is a top priority. I call myself a full-time recreationalist instead of a retiree.

For the first year, I said yes to every invitation, got a dog and invested in some therapy. I immediately volunteered to serve on three very small nonprofit boards. I also decided to be the resource I always wished I had in business, so I volunteer to help women who want to start or further their businesses. It gives me a chance to use all of my old business skills with the added challenge of having to provide everything for free or at very little cost.

I set the goal of making retirement look good to others and finding ways to make these chapters of my life full of adventure, rewarding interactions and opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others.

My motto is “Do good, be good, get good.” I’m 14 years into the best years of my life.


Christine Robb, Islesboro, Maine

Jeannine Olsen, Atlanta

Maria Tirad, Torrance, Calif.

Oakland, Calif.

I’ve been retired for six months and nine days, having left my last role as a C-suite executive unexpectedly. While my retirement was certainly on the horizon, having worked steadily for 35 years since law school, my swan song was the result of a restructuring and, shall we say, a change in market conditions. Still, I embraced the change and haven’t looked back.

Since Jan. 2, I’ve had the gift of time. Time to travel with my husband, who I may have neglected when I commuted weekly between our home in California and an amazing job in Seattle. Time to spend with my 92-year-old mother who lives on the other coast. No more sandwiching a visit to her between business travel and sitting her down at Starbucks while I took a “very important” call. Gone are the days of constant striving, plotting my path to a successful career.

I’ve moved on to spending more time doing what I love: taking my morning walk with a friend and her “complicated dog” who loves me almost as much as he loves her. Addressing the aches and pains caused in part by sitting at a desk for some 10 hours a day for three decades. Hopping back on the Peloton — one of the few good habits I adopted during Covid. And those postponed household remodeling jobs are almost complete.

Is retirement my forever state? We’ll see. But I’m learning how to make the most out of this new stage. And at midyear, my self-assessment is: “Exceeded Expectations.”


Judith Henry, Tampa, Fla.

Ellen Reichert, St. Louis

West Bloomfield, Mich.

I am still searching! Very often there is some type of “formal” training for a career. There seems to be none for retirement. After years of hard work, I suddenly had no identity! My community and purpose disappeared overnight. I was basically “in mourning.” (The transition was compounded by the Covid shutdown.)

I continue to search for a new identity, but it is difficult. I’ve been told to check out senior centers, but pumpkin carving, bingo and singalongs just don’t cut it for me. I did not lose my brain when I walked out of my office. I feel like I am just passing the time reading and doing Spelling Bee.

Being single also complicates things a bit. I would love to explore the new area I live in, but am hesitant to go downtown at night alone or drive several hours to see the beautiful scenery in my state. It is a bit lonely.


Dr. Michael MacMillan, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Paula Santa-Donato, Hartsdale, N.Y.

Douglas Owens, Washington, D.C.

Raleigh, N.C.

I loved my career as a manufacturing manager in the heavy-duty truck industry. Last year, at age 73, I’d had enough. I have a strong desire to see what turns my life will take without full-time work. I love it!

I have done some volunteer work. I see much more of my grandchildren and old friends who are scattered across the country. Being better connected to family and close friends has filled me with joy to a level that I had not imagined. It is very important to me that I help my daughter and her husband in raising the grandchildren.

To put it succinctly, I want to do the things that I had to put off due to limited P.T.O. I have ridden my motorcycle all over the country and intend to keep doing so. My wife and I have a better relationship as we have more time together. I have read more books in the past year than in the prior five years.

This is a very valuable time for me. I will make the most of it. I am writing this from a cabin in the Georgia mountains. Ready to hop on my motorcycle.


Roberta Butler, Providence, R.I.

Molly Wescott, San Diego

Safety Harbor, Fla.

As a career chief financial officer, I spent 30 years in some version of that executive role across diverse settings. It was very satisfying. When a difficult boss motivated me to quit at 63, my job search wasn’t producing much fruit. I told my husband I would search for four months and then shift to “Plan B”— doing something completely different “in food.”

As a scratch cook since my 20s, a foodie by any measure, I began investigating food industry positions. Culinary school? Waitressing? Most of my friends were incredibly skeptical. “You should be an executive. How could you be happy as a waitress, or kitchen or grocery worker?”

By happenstance, I found an open butcher’s (meat cutter’s) position 10 minutes from home at a major grocery chain. I was trained from apprentice to cutter, and I spend my shifts cutting beef, pork, lamb and veal roasts, steaks, thins, stir-fry, and stew.

I love it. I work part time, which gives me time for my husband and to travel. My cooking has exploded as I experiment with a much broader range of meats and fish. I talk cooking with customers as I interact with them or prepare custom orders for them.


Conrad Reynolds, Chicago

Michael Olsen, Ottawa

Gary LaRowe, Long Beach, Calif.

Floral Park, N.Y.

I retired Oct. 31, 2023, at 67 years old. I was a truck driver for 43 years. The first thing I told everyone was that “I don’t have to set the alarm at 4:00, 4:30 a.m. any more.” I really looked forward to that. Retiring just before the winter started meant I didn’t have to work in the winter conditions, which was another bonus.

Now that the weather is much better, I have a house, which means there are jobs to do. Working five to six days a week, roughly 12 hours a day, you really don’t have time to do many jobs (unless you pay someone to do them).

First on my list is painting my garage, as well as the house foundation. Hopefully, this will be done by the time I plant my tomatoes.

We have booked our first trip since I retired. We are going to Ireland for 10 days.


Melanie di Carlo, San Francisco

Kenneth Wenger, Woodstock, N.Y.

Albany, Calif.

Soon after retirement I went on a SF City Guides tour of Chinatown. The volunteer tour guide’s stories were revelatory. My parents and I had immigrated from China, and these were my stories.

I realized leading such tours could be great fun, but challenging. My best work moments were when I had to learn a complex concept, then explain the concept clearly and engagingly to my audience. I was nervous in the beginning, and, although Chinese American, had limited information about Chinatown and my Chinese background. However, I found that leading such tours is an iterative process in which I refine my presentation skills in front of random groups, and search for stories about the Chinese experience in America.

When I see the happy look of understanding from the tour participants, I am motivated to perfect my storytelling and to learn more stories. I have been invigorated. I learned about the Chinese contributions to Yosemite National Park and the Transcontinental Railroad.

Finally, I found my father’s transcripts of his interrogation as a 12-year-old at Angel Island Immigration Station, and I have incorporated his story into my tour.


Tzvee Zahavy, Teaneck, N.J.

Andrew Tesla, Montreal

Jerry Lee, Moscow, Idaho

Carbondale, Colo.

After public school teaching middle and high school, I retired and became a pickleball coach. I initially took up the sport at the end of Covid because I was feeling isolated and alone. I have gotten pretty good for a 60-year-old, made a lot of new friends, played in numerous competitions, even traveled to Asia to play for six weeks in Thailand, Bali and Vietnam.

My doubles partner and I got our coaches’ certification and started a business. Our mission is to empower women through the sport. Pickleball challenges in so many ways: physically, mentally, emotionally and even socially. The lessons on the court can certainly be applied in everyday life.

I’m still teaching and helping others meet their goals and improving their quality of life. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. Every day is like recess, just filled with play; it never feels like work.

Recently I started coaching at an exclusive tennis club and make a nice amount of money to use for travel and tournaments, which can be costly. My dream is to purchase a sprinter van to travel around the country and spread the pickleball joy!


David Mozes, Summit, N.J.

Lynni Weibezahl, Reno, Nev.

Brookline, Mass.

I defended criminal cases and did other civil liberties and rights work for 45 years. I began to learn blacksmithing while I was still lawyering. I now work on one Innocence Project case and the rest of my time, I hammer hot steel.

Because I was self-employed, I retired gradually. For several years, I felt guilty about leaving the human service and liberty struggles. I know that I was no longer able to satisfy my own professional standards due to fatigue.

Blacksmithing requires spatial comprehension, judgment by eye and feel, hand-eye coordination, and aesthetic sense. Lawyering involved none of that. Nobody’s life or liberty is at stake in blacksmithing.

I greatly enjoy that I am exploring who else I can be. I have encountered artists whose outlooks are so different from criminal justice system participants. I maintain friendships in both worlds, but differences are stark.

The serendipity that occurs in artmaking, not from lack of skilled discipline but from a mysterious process, was not something that I experienced as a lawyer. All of this makes me wonder about other capacities to discover.


Francine Smilen, New York City

Cynthia Wagner Weick, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

Kevin Mihaly, Greenville, S.C.

Washington, D.C.

At first retirement felt like dropping off the edge of a cliff. I had spent my whole life climbing up to the top, saving every penny, then poof! All the expertise I had accumulated amounted to nothing. No one cared.

The challenge is to find relevance again doing activities that matter. First I qualified as a yoga instructor and I teach a class a week. I trained my dog for competitions. I took on a few editing projects, but decided I wanted a complete change from my profession (journalism) but to do something that mattered.

I love hiking and backpacking and care about the natural world. After taking a master naturalist course, I applied for a job as a naturalist guide in Alaska and now I’m heading to Juneau, where I’ll work on whale-watching trips and hikes to the glacier.

Why not, I figured, do something completely out of the box while I can?


Hal Reichardt, Beaverton, Ore.

Greg Vouros, Seattle

Minneapolis

Retirement was a springboard! After leaving my position at a software company, I worked with AmeriCorps on a program designed to help people in recovery from opioid substance use disorder. From that experience, my friend and I responded to the tragic opioid overdose crisis. We repurposed used newspaper boxes into Naloxone vending machines, making this lifesaving medication more accessible.

Partnering with community hubs like churches, coffee shops and cafes, we strive to place these “Save a Life Stations” where people might need them most. We’re determined our passion project saves lives.

We’re just a couple of guys, not a business or nonprofit, working to stop this tragedy. I never would have guessed I’d be doing this.


Daniel Beerman, Asheville, N.C.

Don Miller, Lake Oswego, Ore.

Patrick Counihan, Doylestown, PA.

Oakland, Calif.

After working for Wall Street firms for 40 years, and often being the only woman in the room, I became a docent for our local zoo. It has literally saved my life.

I am continually learning about zoo life, conservation, veterinary care (we have a fab vet hospital), and my work is appreciated. The people I meet are interested in learning about our animals and the rescue work we do.

I wake up excited to go to “work” instead of dreading it. Volunteerism rocks!



Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top