I ADMIT I’M ENVIOUS of people who feel passionate about their careers. People who have no desire to stop working. People who can’t imagine how they’ll fill their days when they finally retire.
I spent 37 years in the workforce. My first few years, I held multiple part-time jobs to put myself through college. Once I completed my master’s degree, I began working fulltime. For 30 years, work was just a daily chore.
During three decades of employment, I never took an extended period of time-off. I never went on maternity leave. I didn’t take a sabbatical. The two times I made career changes, I stopped working for my old employer on a Friday and started my new position the following Monday.
I have a file folder filled with glowing recommendations, positive annual reviews and multiple nominations for performance awards. I almost always felt the work I did was appreciated. But I never felt passionate about what I was doing.
For 30 years, I worked five days a week. While my body went through the motions Monday through Friday, my mind was usually focused on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday were the days I could spend time doing what I truly enjoyed.
Every hobby I had, whether it was competitive pistol shooting, training dogs or writing, came with its own set of daydreams. I spent countless hours thinking of ways to turn the activities I loved into a career. I’d fill notebooks with business plans and estimates of potential income. I would research the cost of medical insurance policies. I’d admire people who ran their own businesses and wonder if I could achieve similar success.
Inevitably, I’d give up on my dreams. I was never confident enough in my abilities to take the necessary leap of faith. I was too afraid of giving up the security of a fulltime job for the unknown of self-employment.
Finally, in early 2022, I did what I’d imagined doing for years: I gave notice to my employer. My final day of work coincided with my 55th birthday.
The first two weeks of my retirement were hectic. My husband and I sold our home in Oregon. We packed up our four dogs and moved to Arizona.
Those first days in Arizona felt a lot like work. I spent hours every day unpacking boxes, cleaning and organizing. I felt compelled to be productive for eight hours a day. Instead of compulsively checking my work email account, I began compulsively checking my personal email. The idea of spending an entire day reading a book was incomprehensible.
My husband, who retired four years ago, encouraged me to slow down. He reminded me the days belonged to us. There were no deadlines. There were no fabricated goals to be met. There was just time.
I gradually began to devote less energy to unpacking boxes. I spent more time training our dogs. I started setting aside at least an hour a day to write. I started playing my clarinet—something I haven’t done since I was in high school.
My husband and I are starting to develop a daily routine that allows both of us the time to do the things we enjoy. We’re both up before the sun rises so we can exercise our dogs before the heat sets in. After that, we plan our activities for the day. Most of the tasks are mundane. But we find pleasure in simple things like riding our bikes to the grocery store.
The most difficult part of retirement for me has nothing to do with time. It has everything to do with money. Not getting a regular paycheck feels odd.
I struggle with the idea that I no longer contribute as much to our household expenses as my husband, who receives a generous pension. Since I was 18 years old, I’ve always paid my own way. I never received an inheritance. I never had a college fund. Every penny I have today is there because I earned it myself.
I’m thankful my husband and I are in a better financial situation than I expected. We sold our house in Oregon for more money than I thought possible. Having a substantial cash reserve in the credit union helps relieve some of the stress I feel.
If the need arises, I’m willing to go back to work. I feel confident I could find a part-time job. But for now, I’m happy spending my days getting caught up on all those things I put off for the past three decades.
As for those boxes that still need unpacking? They’ll still be there next week.
Kristine Hayes Nibler recently retired, and she and her husband now live in Arizona. She enjoys spending her time reading, writing and training their four dogs. Check out Kristine’s earlier articles.