Reflecting on the first three months of retirement

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Today marks three months since I left my job and career in biotech behind. I find it useful to reflect on milestones and this feels like the first “big one” for me relating to my retirement. As I’ve written about before, I spent the first month preparing for and carrying out our family’s move to a new home in a new town. My second month was largely consumed with unpacking, organizing, and carrying out improvement projects around the house. That means that the third month was the first true test of what this next phase in my life is really like. I wrote a milestone post after six weeks, but I feel so much more prepared to review what this has felt like so far at the three month mark.

Keeping busy has proven to be easy

From a practical perspective, many things have been as I thought they’d be. I created space to focus on hobbies and interests, such as cooking. I have also devoted time to learning new things, including WordPress for this blog and improving my iOS app coding skills. We recently got our beer brewing area set up and my wife and I have the first couple of batches in our new home under our belts as well. I’m also pleased that I’ve stuck to getting outside more and exercising, with my morning walk being something to which I truly look forward each day. The latter has also helped me achieve my retirement goal of getting back to reading a lot of books, as I’ve learned just how many audiobooks are freely available on Spotify. In case you’re interested, The Count of Monte Cristo (free audiobook; paperback) has been by far my favorite to date! Given this list of what I’ve been doing, I feel really fulfilled and generally think that I have been spending my time productively.

Continuing on the theme of “doing things”, it’s also been nice to start exploring our town and broader area with my wife and daughter. Of course there are some limitations to that pursuit due to COVID-19 – not something that was in my retirement plan, of course. Given the unseasonably hot weather we’ve had on the Central Coast, that has largely taken the form of visiting the beaches and hiking trails about 30 minutes away, on the much cooler Pacific coast. My wife and I have also enjoyed visiting a number of area wineries and breweries (yes, there is a budget line item for this!) that have appropriate outdoor seating. We don’t yet feel like we know our new town well, but are optimistic that 2021 will provide us fuller opportunities to do so once we have the worst of this pandemic behind us.

What has retirement felt like so far?

Focusing more personally, there have admittedly been surprises in how this “feels”. How can you know what it is like to leave the only career you’ve known until you do it? The short answer for me, anyhow – you can’t. First and foremost, I have felt very positive and motivated the overwhelming majority of the time. I’m very happy that I haven’t found myself dwelling on whether retirement at this time was the right decision – which would be pretty scary. We spent ample time making the decision of when I could retire, and several years preparing for it. I’m certain that helped. That said, sometimes I find myself dwelling on questions like:

“Am I really being productive with my new-found free time?”

“What comes next: Start a small business? Buy one? Pick up a fun part-time pursuit?”

“Do I take a bold step into something new or test the waters first on several things?”

These aren’t bad questions of course! But I have to take care not to allow what should be exciting brainstorming opportunities to devolve into concern or stress over not knowing what to do next. Admittedly I am seemingly prone to this if I’m not careful. Believe me – I know how fortunate I am to be in this position. I’m not looking this gift horse in the mouth! But in all honesty, retirement is a huge change and one that shouldn’t be underestimated. I expect everyone goes through these thoughts at times, irrespective of how prepared they are for retirement or when they do it. I suspect this is a good time to get back to mindfulness practices, like meditation, which can surely only help.

Retirement impacts the whole family!

It’s important to acknowledge that retiring results in changes for everyone in the household. In my case I think this has been overwhelmingly positive – but admittedly I think we should talk about it more as a family. I’m happy that I’m now able to help more with daily chores, be a better partner with my wife in helping our daughter with school, and just be present that much more often. I know I missed an awful lot given the time commitments of my former career – including a lot of international travel. I’m very happy that those tradeoffs are no longer part of what we need to manage as a family.

Above all, I am incredibly thankful for the endless support that I get from my amazing wife, Lorri. She is incredibly patient with me even when I’m feeling overwhelmed about questions like those above, which can lead me to be grumpy at times. In addition, she is always quick (and correct!) to remind me that there is no time pressure to decide on “what comes next”. I have the freedom to spend my time as I wish! I have also realized that I need to be more open about what I’m feeling and work through it as a team. We are so fortunate to be in this situation together and these three months have taught me I am prone to keep much of this to myself – I’m working on that. I can’t imagine going through this journey alone and I am so grateful that I have such a great family on this wild ride with me!

On to the next three months!

I can’t believe how quickly these last three months have flown by. The first two months in particular went very fast given our move and time spent getting our home in order. That said, I am happy with what I’ve accomplished so far and feel fulfilled by how I’ve spent my time. While it hasn’t always been smooth sailing from an emotional perspective, I know I made the right move and am excited by the seemingly endless possibilities of whatever I choose to do next. Yes, there are still important decisions to be taken but I remain ever grateful that I have this opportunity to do so. I wonder how this post will read to me a year from now, with that much more experience. Here’s to all that is yet to come!

photo credit:
“Friday, One more day to go DSCF3565” by tomylees is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

2 Replies to “Reflecting on the first three months of retirement”

  1. I do wonder how different it would be without lockdown. Would you go [a bit more] wild with summer trips etc if you could? Take advantage of that waning airline status. Maybe a good thing that you’re forced to start slow, even though I know your discipline is impeccable.

    1. This is a great question, Tom. Thanks for sharing it. I was originally going to stop working in March. That would have given us three months to prepare for the move and to plan a 2-3 week summer trip. I ended up extending my end date through early June to support a COVID-related program. So yes, we had always planned on taking a summer trip before moving. My airline status is presently extended through end of 2021 as far as I remember. I guess I should look!

      But yes, I think starting slow hasn’t been a bad thing at all. I’ve definitely had more “down time” in which to think given our hunkered down status, which has been useful. And thanks for the compliment! I think my discipline is decent but can always improve 🙂

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