Sometimes we can get bogged down by the emotional challenges that retirement poses. Challenges like figuring out who we are without a job title. Finding a post-work sense of purpose. Making new friends outside the workplace. Sorting out how to structure our free time.
But what about the upside of retirement? As a perennial glass-half-full kind of person, I see retirement as freedom from a panoply of pains-in-the-arse. So, to share a little merriment as we wind up this hellacious year, I offer you this mostly lighthearted list of things that retirement liberates us from:
- Alarm clocks—Ahhh…the joy of waking up when your body says it wants to!
- Wearing panty hose, bras and other shapewear—What does retirement have to do with going commando? Well, we can choose to lose those constricting foundation garments designed to keep our busts, butts and other jiggly parts in place in the workplace.
- High heels—No more risking bunions or a bad back by cramming our feet into high-style but low-comfort shoes that often are de rigueur in the corporate world.
- Wardrobe planning—Buying and maintaining a work wardrobe and planning what to wear each day are tasks that assume much less importance in retirement (especially during the pandemic when many of us are living in low-maintenance sweats, yoga pants or pajamas).
- Dreading Mondays—In retirement, the beginning of the week is just another day, so we can ditch the Sunday night blues/stress/insomnia.
- Limiting fun stuff to the weekend—When we’re retired, we can do whatever we like, any day of the week. Places also tend to be less crowded during the week (another plus!).
- Eating up the weekend doing chores and errands—Strapped for time during the workweek, we often relegate grocery shopping, housecleaning, laundry, etc. to the weekend, chewing up precious downtime. In retirement, we have 7 whole days to get it all done.
- Daily commuting—Say buh-bye to the stress and hassle of fighting traffic at the beginning and end of each workday. To getting stuck behind a school bus, invariably when you’re already rushed. To worrying about the weather and how it’ll affect your commute. To going to work and coming home in the dark in winter.
- Complying with dumb workplace “rules”—Sexist dress code policies. Restrictive work-at-home policies. Stringent bathroom break rules. Rigid attendance policies. When you’re retired, you make your own rules. You are an adult, after all.
- Office politics—Whether it’s kowtowing to an authoritarian boss, reporting to someone who embodies the Peter Principle and has risen to his/her level of incompetence, or dealing with a bullying coworker, navigating on-the-job issues can be soul-sucking. Retirement puts them in the rear-view mirror.
- Deadlines imposed by others—In retirement, you (mostly) get to set your own priorities in terms of how you spend your time and energy. Let’s hear it for autonomy!
- Having to take on a project you don’t want—It’s pretty hard to tell your boss “no” to an assignment without risking your job or, at the very least, advancement. When you’re retired, you get to pick and choose what you’ll spend your time on.
- Meetings—You know, those interminable ones that have no apparent purpose but to create more work that you have no time to do because you’re stuck in meetings.
- Contributing to birthday/shower/other gifts for coworkers—Especially ones you barely know and/or can’t stand.
- Wearing makeup every day—While I’d like to think that wearing makeup to work is a choice, a 2016 study by sociologists at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Irvine found that women who wear makeup to work are paid more. Retirement certainly removes that
- Having to DVR TV shows that are on past your bedtime—What bedtime? In retirement, you can stay up as late as you want to watch shows when they air (if you so choose).
- Limiting vacation to 2 or 3 weeks a year—In retirement, you have more latitude to create a life you don’t need a vacation from. And if you want to get away, you can do so for as long as you wish (finances and COVID travel restrictions permitting).
- Eating up sick time when you need a mental health day—Every day’s a mental health day in retirement, and you don’t need anyone’s permission to just chill and enjoy “me” time.
- The “no time” excuse—All those things you’ve been putting off (exercise, catching up with friends, cleaning out closets) because you don’t have the time when you’re working full time? When you’re retired, you do have the time. It doesn’t mean you’ll actually get around to doing those things, but there’s no more “no time” excuse!
- Guilt—When we’re working, we invariably feel guilty about something we’re not doing due to work demands. When those demands cease in retirement, we’re freed up to do those other things and let go of the guilt. (Unless we still don’t do those things and continue to feel guilty about it!)
- Putting off medical appointments—Too many of us delay making doctor or dentist appointments because we don’t want to take time off work. Once we retire, that’s no longer an excuse for not taking care of ourselves.
- The myth of thinking we’re indispensable—This is kind of a corollary to the last 3 items. All too often, we put the job ahead of our relationships and our health, deluding ourselves into thinking that the job just won’t get done (right) if we aren’t the one doing it. In retirement, we can lay down that burden and realize that the organization we leave will survive just fine without us. Really!
- Holiday pressures—The holidays are stressful enough without having to also decorate your workspace, get a Secret Santa gift for someone you barely know, figure out an appropriate gift for your boss, send holiday cards to coworkers or make cookies for the department party. Whew.
Whether you’re closing in on retirement or already there, I hope this list reminds you that while you may be transitioning away from a career, you’re heading toward a time of your life that offers tremendous gifts in the form of freedom and flexibility. And that’s a cause for celebration at any time of the year!
Happy holidays to you and yours!
What about you? What has retirement liberated you from? Or, if you’re not yet retired, what are you looking forward to being freed from? Please share!