Beachfront Trail

Happy Retirement

Tracey Columns

Dear Tracey,

I retired last year from a very demanding medical career in the San Francisco area. After much thought and planning, I moved north to be closer to my daughter and her family.

I am thoroughly enjoying life here in the slow lane. I think retirement is wonderful – I read and take long walks on the beach. For the first time in my life, I tried my hand at a little vegetable garden. (My own salads for dinner? What a treat!) I meet my daughter for coffee and also see my grandkids so much more.

So, why am I writing? My friends down south give me so much grief about how I am spending my time. They are all still working and can’t believe my new life, as it is so contrary to what it used to be. One went so far as to say she was worried I was “depressed” because my life has come to “a screeching halt.”

I know they have my best interests at heart but, am I missing something about this whole retirement thing? Yes, I have made some dramatic changes but I feel right at home in my new life. I imagine I’ll get busier eventually but for now, this lifestyle is simply wonderful.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Happily Retired

Dear Reader,

Congratulations on your retirement! I feel you’re exactly where you need to be, doing exactly what you want to be doing.

Why am I so convinced? Because of what you expressed so clearly when you wrote, “After much thought and planning …” and “Yes, I have made some dramatic changes but I feel right at home in my new life. I imagine I’ll get busier eventually but for now, this lifestyle is simply wonderful.”

This move hardly sounds like some fly-by-night approach to retirement. You seem to have had your eyes wide open every step of the way. You are capable of identifying exactly what is bringing you pleasure. Most importantly, you recognize that your life is fluid and that you may make adjustments in the future. Who could ask for a better approach to retirement?

Now, let’s address your friend’s opinions. Obviously, they are concerned about you. However, I have to wonder, are their concerns a reflection of your new life or rather, the lives they continue to live?

When one person in a group of friends finally retires, it’s natural for the entire group to react to the change. The mere fact that you stepped outside of the group’s norm and made such a huge change can rattle some people … especially those who hate change.

But you have done so much more than just leave a demanding profession. You moved far away, to the country no less – something many urban dwellers think is hell on earth! Then, you completely ditched your fast lane existence to do things like take walks and watch vegetables grow. (Which is great fun, isn’t it?) Are your friends having to adjust to a side of you than perhaps you didn’t even know existed?

But your decisions have also created loss for your friends; you are no longer a part of their immediate lives. As much as I’m sure they want your happiness, they are balancing your decisions against their own feelings, something that could surely create some confusion.

No, I’d say trust your feelings and stay honest with yourself. You seem to be on just the right path.  When your friends offer up some of their unsolicited advice (!) gently point out that this can be a complicated phase of life but so far, your life feels very satisfying.

Then, if the timing feels right, you might turn the tables and ask them just how satisfied they are with their lives? It could open up a whole new discussion, one they may find far more worthwhile than questioning the value of your sweet little vegetable garden!

(Click here to return to The Second Half online archives)