Good Monday, today I am sharing my blog with pal Leanne for a guest post entitled I Didn’t Choose Retirement – Retirement Chose Me. Leanne writes from Australia about “midlife contentment and connection” on her blog Cresting the Hill. In this guest post, she describes her unexpected journey into early retirement and the adjustments she has made to ultimately find happiness in this chapter of life. Leanne has helped me begin to return my blog to its original purpose. And her wise words have encouraged me as I still struggle with figuring out this retirement gig. I am certain you will find her wisdom helpful and uplifting, too.
I DIDN’T CHOOSE RETIREMENT – RETIREMENT CHOSE ME
Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Leslie for having me as a guest on her lovely blog. There seems to be less and less guest posting these days, and I miss the interaction and getting to know new people. So, I’m very grateful for the opportunity to pop over here and be a part of Leslie’s theme on rediscovering life after retirement.
I DIDN’T CHOOSE TO RETIRE
It’s funny that I blog so much about early retirement because I didn’t choose to retire – in fact I had no plans at all in that direction. Back when I was 52, I changed my working direction; I’d been a dental therapist, a dental hygienist, and a dental receptionist. I felt like I needed a change, so I resigned and started looking around. I found a great job working for a medical specialist, and then I was head hunted by a surgeon’s Practice Manager. She offered me the Perfect Job – great hours, great pay, great office, great team…….
But we all know that if something seems too good to be true….. it often is too good to be true.
WHEN LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVE BALL
The Perfect Job started well, but rapidly disintegrated and spiralled down into the job from hell. I won’t go into details because, well…..bygones (to quote Richard Fish from Ally McBeal). It would be safe to say that within three years I went from loving my job to dreading going into the office. I felt traumatized, and taken advantage of, I was losing the ability to separate my work/home headspace, and it reached the point where I’d get teary just thinking about going to work.
I tried many different ways to handle the situation, but there was no solution. Each new approach improved things briefly, and then the cycle would begin again. I had no choice but to hand in my notice before I became a nervous wreck (I think I probably ended up with some PTSD from it all), so I had to walk away.
AN UNEXPECTED CHANGE OF DIRECTION
My first thought when I left was that I needed to find a new job. I couldn’t possibly stop working because I should be adding more money into our retirement fund. I applied for a couple of jobs, but my heart wasn’t in it – I went to one interview and afterwards came home and emailed them to withdraw my application – I just couldn’t face doing it all again. So, I decided to stop looking for a new job, I gave myself six months grace to breathe and to recover some of my old resilience.
Surprisingly, we didn’t struggle for money – we’re debt free and live fairly frugally, so things just kept going along normally. Despite that, I felt guilty for being at home and loving it -when I believed I should be out there looking for work. Then covid hit and life turned upside down, everyone stayed home, and nobody was working. It was the opportunity I needed to allow myself more time to heal, and more time to figure out the “What’s Next?” stage. I realized that I really didn’t want to go back to work, I didn’t want to compete for a position with people who desperately needed a job. I loved being home and wanted to stay there.
SO, RETIREMENT CHOSE ME
What began as taking a break, then unemployment, then lockdown, became a process of recovery and reassessment. My whole approach to life changed and I finally allowed myself to consider early retirement. I didn’t have the preparation time that others have when they give themselves a transition plan, I just plunged in and hoped for the best. I began to think about retirement as something I’d worked hard for and deserved, rather than something that I felt guilty about.
I didn’t plan to be retired at 57, but obviously life had taken an unexpected turn and I arrived there much sooner than I’d expected. It took a while to stop justifying how I spend my time, and to stop basing my self-worth on what I do. I’m getting so much better at “being” rather than “doing” and I love that.
UNPLANNED BUT ULTIMATELY SO HAPPY
It’s been 2½ years since I left that horrible job behind, it took me a year to recover from the fallout, and another year to find my feet as a non-working person. I’d worked steadily and solidly for 40 years, and I had no plans for retirement – it wasn’t even on my radar, but I’ve gradually figured it out.
I discovered that I don’t want to be filling every waking moment with busy-ness, I don’t want to be proving myself to others by the bucket lists of things I’ve ticked off. I’m just happy, I’m content, I’m at peace. My days are varied, and I feel like I’m learning new things and becoming more creative as time goes by. I still blog each week, but even that’s taken a back seat as I spend more time in the real world. I volunteer one morning a week, I joined a ladies discussion group at our church, I’ve been invited to participate in an art group, I walk every morning, and go to a weekly exercise class and to tai chi. I’m teaching myself calligraphy and I’ve been trying my hand at some collaged pictures – so much fun!
I’M SO GRATEFUL EVERY DAY
These days I wake every single morning with a smile on my face. I don’t need to set an alarm to wake me anymore, I get up when I’m ready. Every day is filled with things I enjoy doing, and people I enjoy seeing. I had no idea when I was struggling to face going to work each day that my life could be so delightful. Looking back, I would never have had the courage to choose to retire – so I guess retirement had to choose me. And I’m so glad it did!
At 53 Leanne started blogging about authenticity, positivity, simplicity, gratitude, and finding her voice again in Midlife. Then life took a radical turn when, at 57, she resigned from a toxic workplace, and decided to leave the 9-5 behind and embrace early retirement. She advocates for an “Unbusy” retirement – one that is all about “being” rather than constantly “doing” – and finding joy in the flexibility and freedom of living life on her own terms.
Blog: Cresting the Hill
Facebook: Cresting the Hill
What are your feelings about retirement? Have you jumped into it with both feet and much enthusiasm? Or maybe you are looking forward to retirement in the near future? My ‘baby’ sister will be retiring in the next year or so. I look forward to her being home more so we can do more of the craft projects via Facetime we love to do. Selfish, I know. While I retired early without much planning (would you have expected anything else?), Valerie has been able to retire for several years. She has been working hard to get her professional and financial ducks in a row before she does. And that’s just one way we are different!!
Hope you will spend some time getting to know Leanne better at Cresting the Hill. I am certain your will find her posts authentic, warm and uplifting. Leanne, thank you so much for sharing your retirement experience here with us.
Make it a terrific week, girls!!
Hugs and kisses,