There’s no advance warning system to predict one’s response to retirement.

You can chat yourself up before the actual day arrives, bathe in some delusional fuzzy before-glow. But nothing can prepare you for the moment the world shifts from deadlines and demands – to dead time and sweat pants.

And that special place of refuge – the office – where everybody knows your name? Off limits now. Your month-long end-of-career celebration left work buddies too exhausted to watch another victory lap around the cubicles.

The world you knew has gone silent.

No emails. No voice mails. No texts. You’re a freshman member in the state of carefree  lovingly described in Kenny Chesney’s, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems

But that is the problem.

You’re conditioned to dead-heats… not dead-stops.

The Unremitting Series of Sprints Leading to Retirement

You’ve been traveling at the speed of light since the age of five.

First, nudged into Kindergarten, where children are tantalized – Pied Piper style – by the soft indulgences of finger painting and peaceful naps. Then, caught in a devil’s bargain inked and signed by society, you’re kidnapped into a Twilight Zone of commitments that bleed into the rest of your life.

The hard work begins.

You fast-pedal through an endless series of mapped cycles: grade school; high school; college; career; family; real estate; recessions; depressions; regressions; and hard-won victories on an unbalanced ladder of achievement.

All this while keeping vigil over the ultimate exit strategy – a 401K savings plan vulnerable to the whims of every volatile global situation from Brexit to Kim Jong Un.

It’s marathon race lasting 60 years at the end of which you’ve run so far over the cliff’s edge, there’s no solid ground beneath you.

Emotional gravity takes over for the quick plunge toward earth.

The Cold Turkey Dive into the Retirement Pool

You’ll soon realize – retirement, just like ageing – isn’t for the meek.

During evenings of wine-induced glibness before the big day, proclamations were made to myself and others that I will shine with an intense new light in my post-career, career.

A little more than a month into the deep end, I’m sorting through the emotional jitters.

However well-intended, those regrettable commitments created a pressure cooker of demand for a personal self change management system not within my immediate grasp.

Synapses were damaged in that free-fall to earth.

Fearful I’d made a mistake, I reached out to my financial adviser for emotional support:

  • Have I retired too early? No
  • Do I have enough money to live comfortably? Yes
  • What if I live to be 100? No worries.
  • What’s your prognosis for the market this year? I know what you’re getting at. We’ve discussed this a million times. You can’t time the market.
  • Couldn’t we earmark even a small amount of cash for me to execute some day trading? Under no circumstances.

He listened with God-like patience, then defined the difference between his services and the services of a good psychiatrist.

Woke up the next day with the bomb! idea.

I needed a new mission statement for my life. Potent enough to return me to those halcyon Chicken Soup for the Soul days when everything seemed possible.

I was psyched!

Rifling through a shelf of self-help books I fixated on Tony Robbin’s highly-touted, Firewalk, that speedy trip over burning hot coals, guaranteed to help overcome unconscious fears and master personal development.

Or maybe not. Perhaps something more old school would serve me better.

I took a slow drive down that worn highway of existential pain known as the To-Do list, pondering over next steps until weak and weary from frustration. Truth be told, at that very moment I was more suited to crossing off items on my honey’s honey-do list than my own.

Then it happened.

While hanging family photos in the den of our new home, separated from the constant onus of executing on my second act, this epiphany settled over me:

Five Post-Retirement Steps To Decompress From The Whirlpool Of Work

  • Give yourself time to parachute to a soft landing. If possible, start retirement with a long vacation.
  • It’s not about how you fill your days, it’s about the self-fulfillment waiting to be found in those days.
  • Reinvest in relationships with important significant others in your life. Find sustenance there.
  • Listen to the wisdom of your inner voice and commit only to those things you might not regret in six months or one year.
  • When you’re feeling cozy and comfortable in your new world, take out that old box of Crayolas. Start to draw like that crazy Kindergarten kid who wasn’t afraid to color outside of the lines.

Commit to the above.

Trust time and your wisdom antennae to pick up on only those subtle entreaties from your second act portfolio you’re ready to undertake.

You owe this to yourself.

* * * * *








  1. I like it. It’s a process that can be full of new experiences, some easy to flow into, others not so easy. I’m currently letting myself do absolutely nothing on some days, and feeling good about it! Also keeping my life and calendar open, letting more space in. Letting go of whatever I haven’t used, or need any longer. Spending time with the people I care about, and doing my best to enjoy each day, and make it a day that I do enjoy whatever it is. Retirement, icky word for me. I prefer change, renewal, reinvention, growth, freedom. Well, there’s my two cents, I hope to see you both sometime soon. Love & best wishes for your new home and new life! Da

  2. Thanks, Dale. Yes…hate the word retirement. Sounds like you’re on a good path. I’ve been quite busy but definitely fitting in the important things like rest and rejuvenation. Can’t wait to see you. Love…H

  3. dale and Howard… leave the word behind… I have started seeing and calling it “repurposing”… btw, Howard, there is a repurposing Dave thing on Thursday 5.10 after work… in GR, so if you guys need a quick trip east…. last day is 5.15.

  4. Hey Dave. Hate the word…but “repurposing” sounds a little too detergent-like for me. Still searching! Congrats on selecting your final day! Happy for you. The freedom is actually quite awesome…although disconcerting at first.

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