The other day I was reflecting on retirement. It’s been nearly five months since I left the workforce. Wow. I have to repeat that again …. it’s been nearly five months since I left the workforce. It’s really hard to comprehend.
Back in May I was a little apprehensive when I left the company. I had spent the better part of 32 years with that organization and had been part of so many business cycles. The company grew by leaps and bounds and then slowly retracted in response to the markets. So much of my identity was wrapped up in my job and work community. I worked with many wonderful folks over the years. Some left before me and others continue on.
Over the years, I remember often being saddened when other close colleagues left. Some to pursue other opportunities or some to retire. To me it was a real sense of loss and, to some degree, especially the longer I was there, a sense of being left behind. I know that may sound strange, but that’s how I felt.
My turn to leave
In May, it was my turn to leave. And that’s where the apprehension lay. Would I regret the change? Would not seeing my work colleagues, some with tenures as long as mine, be an overwhelming loss? Would I miss the three plus decades routine of everything that entails ‘going to work’?
I can happily say NO to those questions! I don’t regret the change because there are other things in my life that are just as, or even more, stimulating. Sure, that’s not to say I don’t miss the comradery of some former colleagues, but they are just a phone call away. I certainly don’t miss the two plus hour daily commute and office settings!
So, what has changed?
Everything. Little things and big things. I’ll share just a few with you.
Coffee for example – now that’s a little thing. Prior to retiring, my routine was to down a cup while preparing to leave in the morning and then grabbing a second cup to drink mindlessly in traffic while on the highway. Wasn’t especially enjoyable, just something to get the brain working.
But that changed. I remember a post by the Mad Fientist* (Valuable Lessons from My First Year of Freedom) that resonated with me. In it, Brandon, writes about enhancing his coffee experience and enjoyment after leaving the corporate world. I recall thinking that’s something I want to do too. Well I did. I’ve found a much better quality of coffee and my wife bought me a grinder. It’s delicious. Now, I have the time and, more importantly, spend the time, to enjoy those first and second cups of coffee while quietly sitting on my deck in the morning. It’s a little thing, but it enhances the quality of my life.
I had another but similar experience just the other day. A few nights back we ordered mushroom risotto when we were out to dinner with family. Around 11:00 a.m. the other morning, I was thinking about what to have for lunch. I thought, that risotto so was delicious, I think I’ll make that. Off to the local market to get some fresh mushrooms and by 12:30 I was enjoying homemade mushroom risotto (although, I’ll have to admit, it wasn’t nearly as tasty as at the restaurant, but it was good and I can work on improving the recipe!). As I was enjoying my creation, I thought what a great gift I’d given myself. There’s no way I would have ever tried doing that while working! Who has time to make risotto for lunch? Well, now I do and I have.
Reading books is something I’ve found the time for again. Years ago, I’d spend a couple hours each day on a train commuting to and from work. I had dedicated time each day to read and really enjoyed it. I lost that opportunity over twenty years ago as my commute changed from commuter rail to highway driving. Reading became a lost pleasure in my life. Now, I have that joy back and have time to read books again. It’s wonderful.
One of the big changes since retirement has been rekindling friendships once lost. Over the past several months I’ve been getting together with some high school buddies, that for some, I haven’t seen in decades. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to see them again. I realize that I used my own work and family schedule to justify why I didn’t make time for them in the past. Have to work late, too tired, calendar is too crazy. Whatever the reason; that’s all it was, excuses. While I can’t look back with regrets over the lost time with them, I do look forward to getting together with them and sharing laughs and reconnecting. They are an amazing group of smart, talented, and funny individuals. I am truly thankful they have opened the door I once closed and welcomed me back with open arms and hearts.
I know I’ve read on many of the FIRE community’s blogs that reaching financial independence is the culmination of purchasing back your time. While I intellectually understood that concept, it’s something I now appreciate. I have the time now to leisurely enjoy a cup or two of coffee in the morning, not just on the weekends but any day of the week. Now, I have the time to sit and read a book if I want to and not feel pressure to be working on something else. Most importantly, I now have time to enjoy the company of others that I have missed for far too long.
These are some of the rewards I’m reaping for prioritizing saving over spending for a large part of my working career. What about you? What do you want your rewards to be for making this FIRE journey? Share your thoughts below in the comments.
Thanks for stopping by.
*NOTE – The Mad Fientist is one of several of my favorite blogs. I’ll work on creating a page with links to many that I think you’ll also enjoy in the near future.
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