It has been a year and a half since I retired and a full year since we sold our house and moved to Central Florida. T and I gave up many things during this time period. We gave up our jobs, our friends, our gardens, Wegmans (!) and more.
The people in my NYS life knew me and what I was capable of. I was respected, appreciated, sometimes disliked, occasionally loved. I was someone specific and unique. I was not a stranger.
In considering retirement it is important to know giving up your job means giving up your identity. Be forewarned so you can be prepared. For our entire adult lives we define ourselves by the titles we hold and the work we perform. Like many retirees, not only did T and I retire but we moved to a strange, far away place where no one knew us, where there was no external memory of who we had once been.
It is true that we live close to family now. That was the purpose of the move and the biggest joy of my post-retirement life. Living near family provides roles to perform rather than a personal identity. Our daughter and her family have a vague idea of who we are and the work we once did, vague being the key word. We are their parents, in-laws, grandparents. I love having those roles. They suit me well.
We are also a husband and a wife. So yes, we still have a variety of roles to fill, and they are satisfying and enjoyable roles. However, I have yet to redefine myself for myself. I once knew how to do that. I am not quite sure how to do that in retirement, but I trust it will happen over time. The fun comes in wondering who I will end up being.
What I learned from experiencing change is this: if you keep going eventually life settles in and evens out. I trust in that notion because in spite of some initial discomfort, I have always acclimated to the cultural norms in each new situations. In the course of those struggles I developed new ideas and learned to adapt and become flexible in my views of what normal might be. Those were valuable real-life lessons. In spite of the underlying sadness and very real loss brought on by each change, I learned to trust my abilities to rise to the occasion. But in my work years, I did not have to be particularly pro-active. Life came to ME. You take a new job and stimulating challenges happen all around you. The outer world takes charge of you.
The difference in retirement is that there are no ready made communities provided by the job you are taking on. Sure, there are institutions I could join and places I could go to build a community, I just have not wanted to "go there" yet. For now I savor the freedom of being an outsider, of being a stranger. In theory, I guess it seems too much like work to join or belong to an institution. In practice, it would take some effort on my part. For now, a day that I have something I must do still seems like a day that is lost to me. I guess the identity one cultivates in the post-retirement years is more personal and private. As we age, it makes sense that we exert more energy exploring our inner life rather than our outer life? There are fewer distractions. That's a thought.