No one tells you how lonely you’re going to be…maybe even a little depressed…when you retire. When you leave a life that has been all-encompassing for years…full of noise…meetings…calls…travel…people. When you wake up and the only thing to greet you is the cat.
I had fantasized about how awesome it would be. To have no obligations…no reason to set an alarm…nothing to rush off to. But when you’ve lived a structured life full of hustle and bustle and all of a sudden you wake up to the silence..it’s deafening…soul crushing.
One of the main reasons I decided to retire was because I didn’t want to retire at 55 and find myself alone. So instead, I retired at 41…and found myself alone. I mean, I knew I was alone…but really facing it…the feeling of isolation…it was heavy. No one told me how heavy it was going to be. Although, even if they had, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Sure you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want…but no one to do it with. The first few weeks were really tough. I barely left my house. Each day I questioned the decision I’d made…at least a couple of times…and had to remind myself that this wasn’t an impulse decision. I’d thoroughly thought it out and planned for it. The options were to suffer the realization of how lonely my life was now or do it at 55…seemed like something better to tackle now.
At first, I thought the issue was that I wasn’t busy enough, but when I went on vacation I was perfectly content to do nothing but sit at the beach each day. Realizing that it wasn’t about how busy I was, but rather what I was doing with my time allowed the haze to lift just enough for me to begin having some break throughs…and I was able to bring that awareness back home.
It’s been gradual though. There were days I had to make myself get out of bed…before 10. I was sleeping between 10-12 hours a day and still felt tired. Part of it was probably all those years of running myself into the ground that the body and mind decided they needed some much deserved R&R. But if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t feel like there was any reason to get out of bed. All I was going to do was walk downstairs and sit.
Thank goodness I decided to write this blog and made a public commitment to do it everyday. It was the one thing I knew I had to do each day. Because I had to have things to write about, it forced me to face all the shit that I’d spent so much effort shoving down…trying to bury. It made me shed a light on the darkness…darkness that kept me weighed down…sad…lonely…depressed.
Had I not focused on purging myself of all that yuck, I’d probably still be sitting in it and not even realize it. I wholeheartedly believe that we attract what we put out — the whole, like attracts like concept. And as I look back at my life, I can see how that played itself out in my romantic relationships. Somehow I managed to hit the jackpot in the friendship arena…that can only be the Universe at play because I truly have the best friends ever!!!
I find it symbolic, though, that my last relationship before retiring was with a man who was completely unavailable….yet I couldn’t bring myself to walk away. The golden handcuffs of my job had extended themselves into my personal life. I didn’t have time for a real relationship…to truly put in the effort to meet someone and nurture a relationship. So I ended up in a part-time relationship with someone who could also only dedicate a part of himself. It seemed perfect at the time…because I was too distracted to give it the attention it needed.
But after retiring…when all I had was time…when the only thing I did for hours on end was think about my life…the regrets poured down like a monsoon. And I let them. Life really is too short to carry around regret. The best thing to do is feel it and let it go. So that’s what I did. It was dark…depressing…lonely. But after it passed…after I had finally let out all that shit that I’d been lugging around (mostly via this blog)…that I’d been too afraid to share for fear that people wouldn’t understand or like me….when I finally let go of my own personal judgment toward myself…Well, it was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The shift happened and I stepped into a new life. No more regrets. No more beating myself up for what I did or didn’t do. Only appreciation and respect for doing what I needed to get myself to this spot…right now…right here…today. It takes a lot of work to face yourself — the real you. The one that we hide from view because we’re afraid. I wouldn’t have had the time or energy to do it if I hadn’t retired. Now, I’m not suggesting that everyone quit their jobs. I am suggesting, though, that we do a really shitty job of making time for ourselves…spending time listening to our voice and our body…acknowledging our own needs, wants, desires…letting go of the regrets…loving ourselves.
I had to retire to get to this point and I knew that about myself. I knew that I couldn’t carve out time for myself…that this wasn’t something a long vacation could fix. This was my life and I had ignored myself for too many years for there to be a quick fix. But through daily focus, I’ve arrived at day 69 feeling shiny and new.
Those initial dark days…when I questioned my decision to leave…were full of fear. Not fear of not working or not having enough money…fear that there were no longer any distractions to keep me from having to do the work. The real work of getting to know myself…admitting what I wanted out of life…and realizing how far from my true self I had traveled.
They don’t tell you how lonely you’re going to be when you make the time to sit down and focus on yourself. But I’m here to tell you that once you do…once you dig in and shine a light on all the dark areas…you’ll feel like a million bucks. It is, without a doubt, worth the all the work…all the tears…and all the fear…to find yourself.