Another Year Is Almost Gone… but the “STUFF” remains

We slid into November with hardly any fanfare and now it’s almost over. It’s so hard to believe that 2021 has only a few short weeks left. A lot has happened in the past year or so… so much has changed and yet it feels like everything is at a standstill. What have I learned this year? Like many people, I learned that I can certainly do my job from home; there was never really any doubt about that. I also learned that I really don’t mind not being around people all day, every day. This has been the Year of the Introvert, I think… no need to go out when everything can be delivered right to your door!

In terms of retirement planning and getting ready for life Beyond Retirement… I can say a lot has happened. I’ve got a retirement date set now, so it’s not just “someday in the future” anymore. Now the plans for the rest of my life are really starting to take shape. One of the big goals on my list is figuring out whether or not I’m going to continue with my podcast. I’m enjoying getting to know people through interviews and I love it when I get an email from a listener! It makes my day to know that someone is actually listening… podcasting can be a lonely pastime. We put our thoughts out there, but we’re never really sure if they’re landing on ears or just floating in the air. Sure, our stats show whether there are downloads or not, but that doesn’t really mean anyone’s listening, does it?

I started my podcast with the idea that I’d share my journey toward and beyond retirement, letting listeners in on the struggles and the successes along the way. The point was to focus not on financial topics but on the rest of the retirement package – basically the answer to “What Am I Going to Do for the Rest of My Life?”

The face of retirement has changed so much since our parents’ generation. Baby Boomers are starting to retire from their careers and they’re not ready for the rocking chair on the porch. So it’s important – maybe essential – to take a look at what the options are now. The way I see it, these are the main options:

  • stop working altogether and focus on hobbies & recreation (paid or unpaid)
  • stop working full-time and switch to part-time work in a related field
  • stop working full-time and switch to part-time work in a new field of interest
  • turn your career into a consultant business, choosing the hours you want to work
  • keep on working (why stop if you’re enjoying it and able to continue?)

With all these options (and probably more), it’s no wonder people are having a hard time deciding whether to retire or not. It’s a lot easier to just keep on doing what you’ve always been doing, right? But that’s the problem – we’ve all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. So why do we keep doing the same things in our life and being surprised when the results are the same?

Okay – so maybe it’s just me – but I don’t think so. Things like trying to sort out all my belongings and “downsize”. Every week it’s the same result. I clear all the accumulated junk off my desk so I can “organize my life”, only to find that by the end of that week, there it all is again, piled high and threatening to bury me. How does it happen? Why does it happen? What am I doing wrong?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not doing anything “wrong”; I’m following the path that many people have taken before me. But maybe I need to pay a little more attention to Marie Kondo’s style of decluttering and start asking myself “Does this spark joy?” At some point in my life, I stopped doing things and collecting things because of the joy they brought to me. As a child, everything we did was for the joy of it, wasn’t it? That new collection of toys, the book series we simply had to have… Why do we stop looking for joy as we grow older?

I’ve asked a lot of questions here… and I think the answer to all of them can be found through a bit of soul-searching. As we age, we stop looking at life through the wonderous eyes of a child and start looking through the more jaded eyes of an adult. We need to get some of that wonder back! The world is a wonderous place – there’s no way we’ve “seen it all” just because we’ve grown older, although we do tend to feel like we’re seeing the same things over again each year. That’s where the soul-searching comes in. It’s time to start admitting what we’re looking for, because no matter how much STUFF we collect over the years, we aren’t going to find what we really want unless we’re ready to admit that what we want is CONNECTION. And that gets harder to find and to nurture as we get older. It’s not so easy to walk up to someone on the street and say “Do you want to be friends?” when you’re over 50, is it!? But that’s what it’s going to take – putting yourself out there and being vulnerable. Letting go of all the various security blankets you’ve held onto over the years (all the STUFF you’ve collected that makes you feel safe at home) and opening up a bit.

The most important part of life beyond retirement (in my opinion) is sharing it with others. Not everyone will have a partner to share the journey with, but there is SOMEONE out there who’s going through a similar situation at whatever stage you’re at, or someone who’s done it recently and can share some insights. And who knows, maybe YOU will be the one who’s “been there, done that” and can help out someone else.

The bottom line is the world is big, there’s a lot to see and do, and you’re not alone in your travels, no matter where you are. So smile and let someone know you’re there!


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