The following was written for a newsletter for one my groups, I'm reposting it here.
“Are you keeping busy?”
I get this question often when people find out that I'm retired. For some it's a concern that I'm not bored and depressed and about to go postal, but for others that's how they define themselves and their work, as being busy. As opposed to being idle and non-productive I suppose.
I was busy enjoying my new “hood” the other day: had taken a few urban life photos, picked up a library book, enjoyed a BBQ sausage from a local chip wagon, made some notes for my novel, met with a musician to discuss a newsletter, and stopped by the sunny patio of my local pub to quench my thirst. So far it had been a typical unstructured yet busy day. As I sat there in the sun watching the world go by, sipping a Keith's, I mused on the myth - or fear - some believe in of empty retirement days. I find I often "do" more different things in a day than when I was gainfully employed, but is it work?
One could define work as “To exert oneself physically or mentally in order to do, make, or accomplish something”. From that you'd think even I - sitting in the sun, enjoying life and wondering if my pension checks came in yet - was working. But the assumption for many seems to be that it has to be a formal productive job, something that pays a wage. They don't understand the concept of retirement – yet.
For me retirement means I have more freedom to choose in a day, to wander and ponder, to lose that narrow focus of the workplace, to throttle back that drive, to no longer be controlled by structure for 37.5 hours a week. A big change for some, who still expect themselves and others to keep up a life of focus and drive into retirement. An expectation to stay in control and manage this new “job”, to set up a schedule and get down to "work". Stay busy, tick off each completed list item, and whatever you do, never sit around for a whole day in your housecoat, that idleness wouldn't be seen as contributing to society. Not for me, while some days I do get on a roll and get a lot done on a "to-do" list, some days the list gets re-written at the end of the day to match what happened, most days there is no list. I think that my days of tele-working at Bell, and the short breaks as a contract worker, started me thinking of retirement ahead of time, helped me to slide into this new lifestyle easily, to even see procrastination as a strength. Leaping into retirement by creating a to-do list of everything you ever wanted to do can be comforting for some. It can also be daunting, until you realize that not a lot of things on your list are really "have to do". Why not look at this as an opportunity to pause and discover what your “passion” really is? Maybe it's the obvious, like improving your golf game or renovating your home. Maybe it's discovering you're an artist, or an explorer, or an activist, or an entrepreneur. Or all those things. Whatever your passion, you're free now to pursue it for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction, rather than for a pay cheque.
You will find that without a full time real job, there's no convenient label for people to use to pigeon-hole you - you work for Bell, you work for GM, you're a broker, you're a carpenter, you're a stay at home mom or dad, whatever. When I'm asked what do I do, I think of my new passions. I can answer that I'm an advocate of urban art, a volunteer, a photographer, a musician, a grandfather, a social activist, a semi-retired gigolo. None are a complete fit, but all of them – especially the last one - provide a starting point for more conversation as to who and what I really am. Maybe I should describe my catholic tastes by saying I'm an Eclectic Circus.
Feel free to join me in the ring.