What do you do, when you don't know what to do, but know you must do something? Imagine you have been given an instruction book to your life and when you open the book, the pages are all blank. That is what it is like for our men and women leaving a career of service. Service jobs include the military, but it also means those who have retired from law enforcement, firefighters, doctors, and nurses. It's the career secretary, teacher, waitress, and cook. It's the business owner who closes shop, transfers ownership, or hands the business over to a loved one. The impact of leaving a career that you've been dedicated to for decades can be exciting and terrifying at the same time.
The day after retirement you awaken to the alarm you forgot to turn off. You lay there in bed thinking how blissful it is not to have to answer to that annoyance ever again and softly fall back to sleep. Minutes later you awaken and lay there wondering what you should do today. Every routine you've gotten used to performing has disappeared overnight and you must create new patterns of behavior, new routines, set new goals, and find new ways to fill the day. It's amazing how much time there is when you have nothing to do except notice how much time you have. If you don't write something down in the blank pages of your book, you will fill the days with boredom and useless endeavors that bring little to no joy. Regret and resentment will begin to weigh on you as you look around at the unprepared future with fear, frustration, and confusion.
I have seen an increase of individuals coming to therapy to try to understand the cause of their anxious thoughts and emotional lows. What they had been looking forward to for so many years with giddy anticipation, has turned out to be noting what they had planned. The travel plans have disappeared as Covid restrictions linger and the costs or travel soar. The remodel of their home they no longer can afford either. When the realty that they were happier working in a job that made them miserable settles in, they feel defeated.
So, I take them by the hand and show them a life they get to create! We look at the possibilities, passions, and hobbies they might still enjoy. We look at what brought them joy while they worked, but they never had enough time to do it. We look at discount travel and modes of transportation not considered. We talk about a home oasis versus as total remodel. It's amazing how good you feel when you declutter your home office, your closet, and your garage. Investing in new shelving, painting the walls, and upgrading with new lamps and rugs can do a complete refresh to a familiar area. New bedding in the bedroom also is a inexpensive way to brighten up your space. One benefit of retirement is you get to pick a part-time job that gives you joy. If you enjoy golf, bowling, or sipping Starbucks, see if they have any openings and work as little or as much as you want. The money you earn will pay for your hobbies in your off time. If you enjoy crafting, try applying at Hobby Lobby for the holiday. If you find sewing or home decor interesting, apply to work in a furniture store or Joanna's. Employers are in great need of experienced workers with a foundational work ethic. You can pretty much ask for your preferred hours and even your preference in pay. Even if it's not comparable to your prior job, it doesn't matter. You're there for the joy of it now and joy you will find. If you don't like it, do something else. The world is your oyster, and the buffet of life is before you. Sample everything, do what you like, and enjoy the journey.
When you look around at all that is wrong it can be overwhelming. But when you look with fresh eyes at all the possibilities, you can feel encouraged and reenergized. When you look at each day as a gift from God, you can receive the blessings he freely gives you. If you focus on the past and what you don't have, you will miss the good times you could be making today.
"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."