It’s been a few months since I stopped working at the Vancouver Sun after 38 years – although it was closer to 50 years in journalism as I started in newspapers in 1968 in England – but I still get asked the same question all the time: How do you like retirement?
My answer is somewhat complicated.
First, I have been amazed by the change in my perception of time. Time was aways on my mind when I was working full-time. Deadlines, of course, were a constant factor.
But since I stopped working, time has taken on a whole new dimension. Frankly, I cannot believe how much time there is in a single day.
I can get up, go swimming, go for a bike ride, work in my garden, have a nice prosecco lunch and it is still only one o’clock.
I can listen to my favourite music, watch a movie, read a little, write some emails, have coffee and still it is only mid-afternoon. What? Where did all this time come from.
In the past, I would put my head down in my little office space at 8 in the morning and the next time I looked up it was 4 in the afternoon. Where did all that time go.
I know it’s a crazy cliche among retired people: ‘How did I ever find time to work.” But, for me, the reality is: time is abundant and I am so grateful to have all this time on hand to do things I love to do. It’s a luxury I never knew before.
Working in the garden of a morning with Schubert’s Trout quintet or Strauss’s Four Last Songs playing is a joy. My garden has never been happier.
And I think I now actually have time to be the gardener my garden always deserved. I think I will indeed become a better gardener.
When I first retired, I was a little startled to discover how many men – more men than women, I found – have some very negative ideas and attitudes about retirement.
The conversation I’d have would go something like this:
“Steve, I heard you’ve retired?”
“Yes, how about you?
‘Oh no, no no. I am never retiring.” Or a variation on this theme: “Oh, no, I’m still active” or “I still keep my hand in” or “I’m only semi-retired.”
The more men I talked to the more I became aware of this odd attitude: it was like retirement was a dirty word, somehow closely associated with weakness, death and decay.
I was frankly surprised.
But then I started to see this opinion surface in other areas: the Duke of Edinburgh – “Oh no, I’m not retired; I’m 95 but still doing what I do. “ Charlie Watts, drummer with the Rolling Stones, in a headline in a British paper: “Wot me retire? And do what? Mow the lawn. Never!”
I never realized how many men feel this way about retirement. The fear factor is quite significant for many people.
Another question I also often get asked is: Are you still writing stories. And the answer is: I have a couple of long-term projects on the go – one about words and stories for my granddaughter and another about my early days as a junior reporter in Derbyshire – plus I am having fun posting pieces here on this website, especially photos and words when we do garden tours, such as the one this past spring to England-Wales-Ireland. I’ll be doing more posts when we go to South Africa in September.
You can see all the stories from the Wales-Ireland tour under the Garden Tours label here and you will be able to see new posts going up from the South Africa tour next month.
Since retiring, Loraine and I have also had the joy of a new grandchild – a boy, Wesley, born to our son Peter and his partner Alison in July.
We now have six grandchildren, ages 11, 8, 5, 2, 8 months and 2 weeks. They are all a delight. We love spending time with them – bike riding, swimming, picnicking, playing games, going places, or just being in the garden together. It’s all fun and the grandkids are an unexpected and astonishing source of joy to us. Who would have known.
We want to do more holiday travel with them but at the moment, they are frequent visitors and our home is often full of their inexhaustible and abundant energy and enthusiasm.
In terms of what else I would like to do with all the new time I have, I look around and see friends doing all sorts of unusual, quirky and challenging things: starting a beekeeping/ honey-making business; building a beach resort in Nicaragua; writing a movie script; promoting a new novel, organizing renovation contracts.
I started to compile what I now call my Not-List – things I don’t want to do. Here’s a sample of what’s on it.
Fishing: no. Golfing: no. Camping: no. Beekeeping: no. Clubs and committees: no. Making wine: no. Book club: no.
Yes, it is a little negative, but I also have a Yes-List. A lot of things I have already talked about are on it. But I found making the Not-list very therapeutic and useful in helping me see what I really don’t want to do.
But there have already been surprises. For instance, I love bike riding with my grandkids. They are so funny. It’s like being in a gang again.
The conversation ranges from the gross things kids do at school to a talk about the fear of having stitches to who is the best superhero and why.
I just pedal and listen. It’s fascinating stuff.
Retirement? It’s about time, I think.