Sunday, 8 December 2013

6 Surprises in the First Year of Retirement

It's almost exactly a year since I closed the door on my office for the last time. As I reflected on the past twelve months I realised that the challenge of living well in retirement this year has had many surprises!

Surprise 1 - Hitting the Wall

I was unprepared for 'hitting the wall'! During the first few weeks I was euphoric! So when I woke up one morning tired, depressed, feeling like I was unable to move - I was surprised! I had not expected such feelings to be a part of my retirement - especially after such a great start!

Surprise 2 - The Depth of Exhaustion

During this low period - that lasted around six months - I was surprised at the extreme depths of my mental and physical exhaustion. At a time when I was expecting to be feeling happiness and fulfilment I found instead I had nothing left to give - to anything. Just coping with the day was demanding. Projects that I had planned to tackle weighed on me as I found that I was unable to find the motivation to even think about starting them.

Surprise 3 - The time it takes to feel great again!

Because my time was my own I slept in each morning waking when I was ready - usually around 9.30am, slept for an hour or two each afternoon, and went to bed early because I was so tired.  I listened to my body - and my spinning brain - and let them both rest. I dreamed amazing and exhausting dreams about my work.

It took several months before I began to feel human again! Gradually my energy and enthusiasm for life returned, the dreams ceased and one morning I found myself thinking 'I feel good today!'
It was a great feeling, believe me!

Surprise 4 - No time!

I'm sure you've heard it before from colleagues, family, friends who have retired - 'I don't know how I fit work in!' Well, I'm here to tell you - it's true!!!

Back on my feet again our lives are busier than ever - the difference is that now we are doing things that are our of our choosing - travel, hobbies, getting the house and garden into order, spending time with family and friends, time at our beach house, getting fit, reading, blogging ... the list goes on!

Surprise 5 - Money Matters

Another big surprise has been just how much it cost us to work! The significant costs associated with running our vehicles, work expenses including clothes, shoes and accessories, and leadership, teaching and professional learning resources to name a few - are ones we no longer need to meet.

We have found some ways to save money. I'm enjoying growing fresh veggies in the back garden, preserving fruit and making jams, and making bread. I have the time to do 'slow cooking'. Instead of always paying premium prices for cuts of meat for a thrown together dinner after work, I can now plan ahead and look for those tougher and cheaper cuts of meat that are just amazing after long, slow, moist cooking. Having the time to shop at local farmers markets has also bought variety and quality fresh produce to our table. Our grocery bill has plummetted as a result - and we are eating healthier than ever!

With time available to us we have also researched and renegotiated improved contracts for electricity and gas, insurance etc. These all mean extra dollars in our pockets for our discretionary spending!

In our first year of retirement we have managed our money carefully - but not gone without anything we really wanted - and have enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle as a result.

Surprise 6 - Getting to know each other again!

One of the loveliest surprises of the year has been just how wonderful it has been for John and I to spend so much time together.

We have found our road trips to be a great time and place for meaningful converations that move us forward as a couple - those long hours in the car serve us well!

Planning the week together - usually on Sunday evening - ensures that days don't just drift past, that we each give voice to our individual needs, and that we are getting things done.

To balance the time we are together we have supported each other in pursuing creative outlets. By giving each other the 'space' to do these things means we each have personal time to spend as we wish.
So far, as a result, neither of us has had cabin fever!

I'm looking forward to next year! There's so much to do - and a life in retirement to be lived really well! Bring on that challenge!

What has been your experience of retirement - where your first months similar to, or different from mine? I look forward to hearing from you!



NB: My thanks to my wonderful staff at Vale Park Primary School for the archival photos dug up and made into the posters that appeared on my door in those last memorable weeks of school!


  1. Dear Marian, I am reading these posts with huge interest because I feel connected with you on many levels, but also as you know Peter and I are on the very cusp of retirement… and it's interesting to read your insightful thoughts and experiences. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Hi Liz - Frustrated at the lack of personal blogs on this important life experience I started this blog to share my lived experiences of retirement. I'm so glad you are finding it helpful. This whole retirement caper has been full of unexpected surprises! I'm hoping there are some really good ones coming up soon! Stay tuned!!!