Happiness in Retirement — What do you ‘do’ after ‘work’?

As busy dedicated professionals think about retirement, many wonder what they will ‘do’ after ‘work’.  What will make them feel worthwhile?

Careers are built by focusing on goals, tasks, and rewards. Very often these are not personal goals but corporate goals — accomplishments that society affirms and rewards.  You are doing ‘something’ worthwhile.

A few days ago I met with a group of former colleagues.  Although most of them are still busy with their careers, several are thinking of retiring in the next two or three years.  I was the only person at that gathering who had retired.

The question asked of me most often was “so what are you doing now?”

What  I ‘do’ after work

The question “what are you doing now?’ is easy to answer.  I spend my time doing the ordinary things that I never had time for before retirement.

I exercise.  I cook and eat nutritious food. I sleep enough for good health — 7 or 8 hours per night.

I spend time with my husband. We eat together every day. We do lots of activities together — sometimes mundane errands or trips to the gym; sometimes interesting jaunts like going to a theatre production.

I enjoy the outdoors — even when the weather is nasty. I garden. I spend time relaxing at the cottage and walking on the beaches of Lake Huron.

I play bridge. I volunteer on a couple of boards. I read extensively and belong to two book clubs.   I write posts for this blog.

I could go on with this list adding various hobbies, routine household tasks, church activities, occasional travel, and taking adult education courses from time to time.

But, don’t you get bored?

In response, many people indicated that they couldn’t ‘wait’ to have the freedom of retirement.  But others were uncomfortable.  Follow up questions included ‘don’t you get bored?’

This reply indicated to me that the ordinary things that take up my day would be boring for others.

There are times in life when a bigger ‘purpose’ than just living according to the rhythm of the day is needed.  Sometimes people need to do ‘something’ that society deems more worthwhile than enjoying a leisurely postworksavvy lifestyle.

It’s almost three years since I retired.   Not once have I ‘missed’ the office. I was emotionally and psychologically ready to retire.

When a search firm called me recently to try to entice me to take on an interim executive position, it took little thought for me to give a gracious refusal.

Just thinking about the commuting, the politics of a business environment, and the never-ending hassles related to getting enough funding to adequately achieve the mission of a not-for-profit organization was enough to remind me of the freedom that retirement brings.

Defining what you ‘do’

Life passes too quickly to hold tightly to the status and successes of a career.

My mind stays busy without going to the office. The days fly. I find more interesting things to do in a day than I often did during the active and stressful times at work.

I no longer define myself by a job title.  For some, having no job status means that I have no status as a person — I no longer do ‘something’.

This judgement makes me sad.  Is it poorly disguised ageism? Retiring from work does not mean retiring from living. I don’t feel useless.

I get more enjoyment from doing things I love to do every day and not things I have to do. The days fly by.

There is true happiness in retirement when you spend your time doing what you love.

So the next time I’m asked what I ‘do’ after work, I will smile smugly and say that I do only the things I love — and let them guess just what that means.



5 Replies to “Happiness in Retirement — What do you ‘do’ after ‘work’?”

  1. Hello Janet
    People who don’t know me personally are always asking me what I do with my time as a retiree of 81/2 years. This annoys me because, I have to go through in my mind all the things that I do to answer them, then decide which of those things to tell them about.

    I would never ask them what they did with their time, as I think it is their own business. If they wish to tell me, that’s ok, fair enough, as a Christian, I am interested in how other people are, and like to listen and help them if I can. Sometimes shop assistants while they are serving me ask me what I have planned to do for that day, I do realise that they are only being sociable, but I still find it an uncomfortable experience.

    I am not usually expecting the question, and fumble around for something to say. It’s as though people expect me not to be doing anything useful,. which is far from the truth. I play the piano, have played in church for mamy years, grow A Aspidistra plants and sell them, with procedes going to help Christian mission in various countries, knit for a Christian charity with garments literally being worn by children in Easter European countries, hand out little mini bibles to who ever will receive them, promote missions within the church. Do different things in my church to help promote the Gospel of Salvation through Jesus Christ.

    As you can see I have plenty to say concerning the use of my time. I have decided to say that I grow Aspidistras, I’m sure that will quieten the questions. Anything else will be told as and when appropriate. I am a very private person and will give out personal info as and when!!

    Hope this helps someone out there. I’m always open to help too.!!

    1. Jeanette Lewis says: Reply

      Hello Beryl,
      Thank you for a most thoughtful comment. Your Christian service is remarkable.
      Last week I took a break from the blogging as I was asked to do the sermon/reflection in our church while our minister is on holidays. The lectionary was the story of Mary and Martha; it took some time to research the interpretations of this story and to pull together my thoughts. This left little time for the blog. Your comment about the service you are giving reminds me that the ‘Marthas’ among us give so much in various forms of gospel service. Blessings to you, Jeanette

  2. Professional Retiree – love it!. I must write that next time I am asked to fill in ‘occupation’ eg when filling out those forms when flying internationally!

    Thank you,

  3. Thank you for ‘penning’ those words Jeanette. I have been officially retired for 6 months plus and like you any many others no doubt I constantly get asked what I do.

    I don’t particularly like being asked that and I don’t quite know why I don’t like it. I have wondered is it my personality or what????

    While I was still working – part-time, it was easy to answer. All I had to say was what I did and where I worked and that seemed to be enough.

    A lot of queries come from fellow retirerees and I guess they are merely making conversation, showing interest in me and also possibly searching for ideas for themselves.

    Thankyou for your insight into what being retired offers. For me so far, I think my goal is to find an acceptable balance (for me and my personality). Work in progress.


    1. Jeanette Lewis says: Reply

      Hi Janet,
      I just read an interesting idea for a response to that question “what do you do?” The blogger posted that she identified herself as a professional retiree!
      I find that some people are truly interested in what I do since retiring but many are dismissive in their responses. As I said in the post, I find it sad that retirement activities are under-valued in society but I’m not going to allow such responses to affect my self-esteem nor my enjoyment of life.
      Be well,

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