Busy in Retirement: To Be or Not to Be?

It all started when our co-worker, “A” was about to turn 65. The ever clever and wonderfully creative “E” took it upon herself to launch a surprise. The clandestine email to the team read:

“Guess who’s turning 65? Let’s help the awesome “A” build an equally awesome BUCKET LIST! Respond by ….”

I was a little perplexed because I had always considered the bucket list, or BUCKET LIST a personal thing. Not wanting to be the resident curmudgeon, I joined in on the fun anyway, adding something pretty tame – or lame – given my ambivalence.

When “A’s” big day arrived, she grinned from ear to ear as she read her coworker’s suggestions which covered the broad expanse from the ridiculous to the sublime. And then she said something I will always remember:

“Thanks, guys! So here is what I am actually putting on my bucket list:

  • Continue to work. I am NOT retiring!
  • Make more time for prayer because, well, it matters…
  • Get a tattoo!”

When I think back on that day and “A’s” three bucket list items, I notice her focus on doing, on being, and, true to form, raising a little hell (the latter being relative, of course)! And it’s made me wonder about this business of bucket lists whose purpose is to ensure that ultimately, we do what we want, focus on what matters, and have a little hell-raising hell while we are at it.

And, even if we don’t craft a bucket list per se, every one of us who reaches a certain age ponders the big questions around how to spend our remaining time in ways that are meaningful and fulfilling to us.

  • How much rocket speed pursuit of travel, adventure, new experiences and pursuits?
  • How much tranquil time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the moment, and to simply be present?
  • How much hell raising?

It is no small matter. I’ve listened to people grapple with questions like these, heard them debate the merits of one approach or another, and even judge the choices of others. And the ones who seem most content based on the choices they’ve made lead me to conclude that:

How we spend our time once we reach retirement age is a deeply personal decision. One person’s “successful” approach could be a downright disaster for another. Unlike work, where so much of what we did and when and how we did it, this time is largely ours to determine.

Making that decision takes some introspection, self-awareness, and clarity.  For the meditators and contemplators amongst us, this may be a welcome task, a gift. But going inward, having a good look around and taking stock can be very challenging work for others. For once, there is no employee handbook.

Allowing oneself some wiggle room is a wise approach. It’s a little like tentatively choosing a major, taking a few classes, reevaluating the fit, and then trying something else. Why shouldn’t this long-awaited life stage not follow a similar path of discovery?

Resisting the pressure to conform (subtle or overt) is the pathway to contentment. Conformity isn’t a challenge for tweens and teens only. Peer pressure amongst the retired may be subtle or overt. So put on your big girl panties and keep them on. You are in charge.


You are in charge.


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