My state of retirement [or in truth semi-retirement as certainly BC [before coronavirus] I was writing more than ever] has become pretty normal. BC I had settled into something that wasn’t a routine but had a pattern that involved regular campervan trips, writing travel articles and editing photographs in between. It is now over three years since I last had a regular monthly paycheck and I have stopped counting those months and a nine-to-five working life seems a distant nightmare. Looking back to three and a half years ago I had plenty of dreams and plans for retirement, how are they panning out and has our changing world DC [during coronavirus] altered this?
Having time for one thing a day
These days having plenty of time to do things has become so habitual I get irritated when I have to work to a deadline or fit too much in a day. I see my harried and over-worked friends and don’t envy them at all. I don’t have any excuse not to do anything well [including edit my blog posts]! I appreciate having the time to linger and don’t feel guilty when I hang around watching the birds in our garden, chatting to the neighbours or walking to the coast just to see one of Morecambe’s fabulous sunsets.
I have written about wanting to do just one thing a day in retirement, rather than fill my days with multiple tasks. During lock down, with no travel allowed and therefore no writing, the one thing I would / could do was my daily exercise. With so many limitations on my life, the one-thing-a-day mantra was something that didn’t really need repeating.
Staying active & having fun
Taking early retirement was a positive move, in particular to allow us to make the most of owning a campervan. We have done fairly well at this and BC not many months have gone by without us being away at least for a few days in the last three years. We enjoy being able to go away mid-week and make the most of short spells of good weather now we are no longer tied to weekends.
We continue to practice tai chi and now have more space at home for this, particularly in the garden. We were always going to miss our friendly and relaxed Salford tai chi class but we did find a welcoming class in Morecambe. Unfortunately this class imploded BC and then all classes disappeared during lock down and we have been left to practise at home together. Once you know the basics, it is possible to work on tai chi alone but I miss the enthusiasm and discipline of a class.
The alarm clock remains a distant memory. I have settled into a routine of waking at around 07.30 and getting up to make my retired partner our first brew of the day.
We had started working our way around Morecambe’s pubs BC. Getting back into that exploration feels complicated at the moment DC but we have supported some of our local cafes, both old favourites and new enterprises. The optimism and spirit of these small business owners never fails to cheer me up.
Meeting friends socially was an important part of my BC life. As lock down has eased we have spent some time with other households but there are good friends I haven’t seen in person for months. It has been lovely to be able to see couples in a socially distanced way but I ache for one of those jolly evenings with a group of old friends, maybe four or five households, around a table. On these occasions there is inevitably a moment when the conversation will veer off into an unexpected place and I end up laughing and laughing. I want to experience that again and worry that it has gone forever.
A better me?
I wanted to spend some of my retirement brushing up on languages for our travels. While my partner is disciplined and does this all year round, I tend to only start learning when compelled by a forthcoming trip. Last year we didn’t cross the channel at all and so I had nothing driving me to brush up on any language and Duolingo languished unused on my phone. BC I got my act together and began spending half-an-hour a day learning German in readiness for a planned trip. Of course this trip didn’t happen as we were locked down but I have kept the language learning in my day and even added Spanish to the mix. I’ll try and keep it up, whether or not we are going abroad.
I am finding that moving house has changed my priorities, particularly moving to a house and garden that needs lots of work and it was natural that for the first months this was where my energy went. My interest in DIY and gardening was never going to last long. I enjoyed being involved in local good causes in Salford but when we moved to Morecambe I left these volunteering roles. Like so much, getting involved in anything locally feels like wading through mud at the moment and DC my offers of help to local charities have been rejected, as they were overwhelmed with the numbers of people willing to help [a wonderful thing].
Many people set a target to read more books. Reading takes little effort for me and isn’t something I ever need an incentive to do. My favourite relaxation is curling up on a sunny armchair and reading and I easily get through over 50 books a year.
My year of walking 2,019 km in 2019 certainly made sure that I got outside almost everyday. I did find checking the target a bit of a drag and I haven’t set any for 2020 but the routine of getting out most days remains.
DC and in lock down I resigned myself to a break from travel writing work and so I was surprised when a commission came in from a publisher to contribute to a book featuring cycle routes. This has been an interesting [and sometimes frustrating] learning process. Although guide books come within the same travel writing genre, it seems they are a different beast to magazine travel articles and learning to work successfully with new editors has been a challenge.
Trying to stay mentally well & not being irritating
Working life might now be a blur but I still remember how annoying it was when someone who is retired would say, ‘I don’t know how I fitted it all in when I was working!’ Although I know this might often be said in a defensive way by an elderly person who is making the point that they are still a busy and useful person that has a place in the world, they are words that grate on anyone who is trying to fit life in around work!
Although I have experienced lots of anxiety DC, I have worked hard to stay present not least because the future is way too uncertain to even begin to worry about. I know I continue to fail to be perfect but happily embrace my imperfections as too much self-criticism would take me on a downward spiral. I can’t say coronavirus has made me stronger but I am pleased it hasn’t crushed me [yet].
I do still acknowledge how privileged I was to be able to retire at 57 and I continue to value that my time is now my own.