Tales of Retirement
By Joan Hoban
Former Registered Nurse
Retired October 1, 2017
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…”
I’ve listened to that line from Bob Dylan’s song Subterranean Homesick Blues many times over the last 50 (what?!) years, but today it delivered a tidy little aha moment (AKA playful nudge-in-the-arm) about why I should be figuring out my life’s direction for myself. Nobody else can do that for me, unless I want to end up where others think I should be going. And who wants to be placed somewhere the dice rolled them, like a game piece in Monopoly? That sure doesn’t lend itself to feeling lit by the passion that the empowerment of self-determination brings!
Wouldn’t we all rather be exhilarated by the Game of Life as we create it? When I craft my own rules, strategies for winning, and, for that matter, even what a win actually looks like for me, I’m going to want to play that game over and over again. As a senior, that’s a really terrific way to greet every morning, wanting to leap into my overalls and get down to business playing in the sandbox of the Game of MY Life.
From structured to unfettered
Where’s all this Game of Life business coming from? Well, I just retired a couple of months ago after 45 happy, fulfilling years of service as a registered nurse, a profession I absolutely loved, and where there was a fair bit of predetermination about what type of moves I was going to be playing every day. The skeleton plan for my shift each workday was already determined and just waiting for me to flesh out with the tasks, challenges, and accomplishments the hours ahead asked of me. No two days
the same, totally stimulating, infinitely rewarding work I was passionate about (oh how I miss it!), with only the basic form and function of each day known to me.
Now, as I look out over the multi-hued, unfettered horizon at the – hopefully – 30 years sprawled out before me, it feels like I can truly become the architect of my own dreams, with most of the responsibilities and restrictions of past life phases (children, education, career) no longer up for consideration, no longer in the mix.
Frisky and champing at the bit?
Which leads to NOW WHAT THE HECK HAPPENS? What defines us and makes us whole changes over the decades. What made us frisky and champing at the bit at 20 is likely not going to get as much of a rise out of us at 60 or 70. I believe that figuring out what excites us now is the key, rather than settling into complacency.
I think one of the biggest mistakes I could make, as a retiree, would be to believe that I have done everything I meant to and, after all the years of service I devoted to society, well, now the world just kind of…owes me. Like maybe that five-minute wait for a table at a restaurant is unacceptable, or shouldn’t all those kids shrieking with glee outside in the neighbourhood playground be using their ‘inside voices.’ For me, that sense of entitlement, just because we are older (not that we haven’t earned respect for our age and wisdom, since we have absolutely put in our time), just doesn’t mesh with being the visionary architect of my retirement years – unless I want to envision myself as a Cranky McCrankster, with all fleeing from my path. Growing older with grace is not for the faint of heart!
My little notebook
When I was younger, I often felt too stressed, yanked in a whole bunch of directions, allowing myself no time to dream. The dreams come easily now. I’ve devoted a little notebook to them. I keep it in full view on my kitchen counter, waiting on standby to register and store those dreams anytime I conjure up a new idea, wish, curiosity, or challenge to possibly try out in my retirement years. Possibility is such a great word; it’s the free pass I believe will buoy anything that is written in that notebook, until that idea is launched on its journey. If it is written down, it juuuust may happen!
Winds of freedom
What I’ve been able to figure out so far, since retiring, is to breathe. Let things land, notice what is working and not working about how I live each day. Then choose to do something different – if I want to. That’s the truly wonderful thing about retirement: with the restrictions of work schedules removed, our choices are pretty much 100% ours (budgets permitting). And I get to change my mind anytime – just like those winds Dylan mentions, which are free to suddenly shift and change their direction. It’s such a heady feeling to now have the choice to ride those winds of freedom through the years ahead. Yup, a weatherman won’t be able to tell me what directions those winds will be blowing, but I CAN’T wait to see where I will allow them to take me. I could just be in for the ride of my Game of Life…