Time To Do Things For Yourself


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Milky Way from a wooded hilltop

One of the hardest adjustments to make when retiring is doing things you want to do.  You may not even know what that is, after doing things for others for most of your life.  It’s weird to work so hard and so long for the opportunity to do what you want and then get stuck when you can.  But many of us do just that.  Here are some ideas about doing things for yourself.

Who are you?

Are you a natural helper, or a big achiever, or an artistic person?  Look at your personality traits.  Teachers, nurses and counselors are often natural helpers, who find fulfillment in others’ successes.  Achievers often get into business or sports, where they do well at competitive activities.  Artistic people do creative jobs and projects well.  Artists of course, but also interior designers, writers, musicians…well, you get the drift.

Who you are might also show up in your outside activities, not so much in work.  Many of us get jobs that have little to do with who we are and a lot to do with survival.  So look to your private life for hints.  Were you a peacemaker with your siblings?  The go-to cake decorator?  Did you build shelves in the garage to take on storage?   Were you president of everything you joined by your senior year?  These are hints.

What did you want to do?

People don’t get to do what they like as often as they’d like, but look in your past and see what stands out.  It might be a memory of something you’ve seen or a place you’ve been where something wonderful was going on.  You might have fond memories of something you once tried long ago.

What got me going on weaving wasn’t my friend wanting to sell her little loom.  It started at summer camp when I was about 10, seeing multishaft looms for the first time at the crafts cabin.  The craft instructor was a weaver and those looms were magical to me.  They stayed in the back of my mind for 45 years before I did anything about weaving.

Quilting for me came from going to juried craft shows and taking a women’s studies course.  I didn’t actually try it till a few years later when I was unemployed, but I loved doing it.  It’s on my list of activities to revive.

Maybe you saw juggling in that special way and would like to try it when you retire.  Or tai chi.  Or maybe you have a special set of interests that will lead you to write about them, in a blog.  I know a woman who used to do stained glass work as a hobby.  Hopefully she’ll get back to that when she retires; she was very good at it.

How social are you?

Most of us will need to add activities that get us mixing with other people when we retire.  We can no longer count on work buddies because, well, they have their own lives, and you’re not working with them any more.

If you like competition, find some people who like to compete.  In our market town a gang of ardent cribbage players gets together each week to play.  Or if business is more your cup of tea, get a part-time job in one, or create your own.  Be sure to connect with people who do business, too, especially if you do yours online.  That way you still have folks to admire your successes!

Creatives can find like-minded people in various ways.  If you craft, find a group of people to meet with periodically who also craft, and do it together.  The group might meet at members’ homes, a coffee house, a library room or church basement, or a shop.

Writers get together at workshops, readers at book clubs.  Arts councils are  a great resource for matching people to classes and meetings, and they help you hang your works in public or sell them.

Helpers, you shine at community activity planner meetings, church groups, volunteer organizations, thrift stores, and events.  There is so much to do!  Help out at the hospital directing people to their destinations, answering questions, selling gifts, distributing books.  Tutor kids who are struggling at school.  Check around.  Opportunities abound.

Don’t forget self-care!

While we’re looking for things to do, don’t forget to take care of yourself.  You just lost the physical activity, or lack thereof, of your workplace.  Unless that means your at-home level of activity will replace it or improve upon it, you will need to add some exercise.

Fortunately, all movement is some kind of exercise, so if you want to paint the house, go for it.  That ought to keep you busy for the duration.  Those of us not so inclined should find ways to keep moving.  It’s too easy to get a lot of activities where you sit all the time.

Social butterflies will want to check into exercise classes or groups that hike or do sports together.  Try golf if you haven’t yet, or bowling.  If your community has a pool, use it.  Those inclined can join a gym and use the machines to get fitter.  And there’s always walking.  It’s not boring if you take a dog, a camera, or some music or TED talks.  Mix it up!

While we’re on self-care, why not try easing into nutrition improvement?  Now that there’s a little more time for it, you could scrap some of those middle-of-the-store convenience foods and make your own pilaf with fresher ingredients.  Now’s a great time to learn to bake bread.  It isn’t that hard, and the bread is so good!

Try growing a few veggies in pots if your space is limited, or get a garden going if you have the room in the yard.  Fresh food is the absolute best!  If you have a brown thumb like me, investigate farmer’s markets to get really fresh produce grown by people who know what they’re doing.

Now all this sounds like a lot to be doing.  Trust me, you don’t have to do it all, just find enough to keep your days interesting.  Use what’s important to you to make an activity bucket list, and if some flunk, ding them and try others.  Have fun with it.  Be sure to share experiences in Comments.



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