“Living with regrets is like driving a car that only moves in reverse.” — Jodi Picoult
Bob Cox, of Frankfort, Ky., shares more about the good life. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
Today I got up at sunrise and walked my dog, Cooper, early enough that I could spy on the neighbors as they scrambled for work. The weather was agreeable, so I took my coffee outside. I had one goal for the day: mow the lawn and refurbish the mulch. I knocked that out before lunch. Then I walked the dog again. I spent a couple of hours on an oil painting that I am preparing to give to a friend.
Then, suddenly, I had the desire to write this essay.
Later, there might be a glass of wine on the deck before I finish the final draft. I will then enjoy the evening chatting with my wife about her work day and our upcoming plans for a week in Florida. I most likely will be in bed early, reading.
Earlier this week, I took a five-mile hike at Red River Gorge; painted the upstairs bathroom; babysat my 18-month-old grandson; attended both granddaughters’ soccer games; and took my mom out for lunch.
Yes, I am retired. I’ve written about this before. But I have been at it a year now, and I wanted to report that it has been even better than I expected. So many people I know seem reticent to take the plunge, even when they have a retirement plan in place and can check all the boxes. So I wanted to share my exuberance about what retirement offers.
Retirement is like no other stage of life, for two rather obvious reasons. First, you are free to choose what happens every single day. Second, you can invest time in the things that truly matter to you. That’s it. That’s the secret that I had failed to recognize before I spent my last day at work.
Typically, I do not like routine. For most of my life it annoyed me to follow a schedule. Now, however, in order to fit in all the things I want to do, I find myself loosely planning about a week ahead. I still get up when I feel like it, do what makes me happy, and feel NO guilt about my choices.
When I retired, I did make one commitment to myself: I wanted to see results. I intended to invest all my resources, both emotional and financial, in a life that would bring me peace. I wanted to spend more time with friends and family. I wanted to travel—long trips and short, expensive and not so much.
Clearly, I recognize how fortunate I am. Not everyone has the choices I do. My health is good. My wife is still employed and gave me her blessing to retire. We have the financial resources to enjoy this time. My mother is nearly 89, and I am free to take her to lunch or for a drive in the country, listening to her stories. I can build memories with my grandchildren, as I recall all the things I learned from my own grandparents—especially my Granddad, whose wisdom is golden to me now.
Some fear they will become lonely and isolated when they retire, once they walk away from the social network they have built up during years of work. My circle of friends has actually expanded in retirement. I have close friends I regularly join for drinks or dinner. I spend time at the lake boating with my cousin. I play golf with a good buddy. I hike monthly with a group of retired high school mates. My wife and I recently visited friends at their winter beach house. I can choose to spend more time with more people. They all fit in my new schedule.
So, here’s my unsolicited advice. Retire as soon as you can. There are hidden pleasures awaiting you. Each day you will have the freedom to choose what you want to do, and choose those things that matter most to you.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –Les Brown