Reinvention in Retirement

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”                     

Robert Frost

It is happening all over the place and I love it!  Retirees are reinventing themselves. They are not following the outdated view of retirement. Instead, they are forging new paths that they never had time for prior to retiring.

Retirees frequently get asked what they do with all of their time.  People currently working 40+ hours per week are curious what retirement will be like; fearful that it will be a string of empty, boring days without the challenges and time commitments of work.  The fact is that retirement is a huge adjustment.  As many studies indicate, it ranks as one of the top 10 life stressors. 

After the initial euphoria of retirement wears off (which can last weeks to a couple years,) people typically go through a phase of questioning what in the hell they were thinking by quitting work.  They left behind much of their identify, self-esteem, daily social interactions, and sense of accomplishment.  Now they have to recreate all of that into a new retirement lifestyle.  Eric Weigel describes this phase of retirement as “the messy middle.”  That phase where you are stuck between what you once were and what is next.  He describes this in more detail in his book, Reimagining Retirement:  9 Keys to True Wealth.  (Thanks to Fritz at The Retirement Manifesto for alerting me to this book with a review of it on his excellent blog.)

While this messy middle is, well… messy, it is also the axis of change.  Like any life change, it takes time, planning and commitment to shape it into the life you want to live.  This is the ground zero of reinvention.  It makes me giddy with the possibilities. 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

E.E. Cummings
Reinvention in retirement is the opportunity to unleash your unique interests, without having to fit into the accepted rules and norms that are required in the traditional work world.

I love to observe people who have reinvented themselves in retirement.  They have created a new retirement lifestyle that gives them satisfaction and accomplishment.  It makes them want to jump out of bed in the morning and get started on the day.  It makes them wonder how they ever fit work into their life.  Let me share a few examples to give you inspiration:

  • From physician to watercolor artist.  Years ago I worked with a family physician.  He and his wife have since retired to a small oceanside town.  Now he creates beautiful watercolor paintings, as well as other art, that he sells in a local art gallery. 
  • From high school teacher to creator of cool stuff.  Mr. U worked with a high school teacher who is now retired and creates “cool stuff” (as he describes it.)  He and his wife now sell their “cool stuff” at a local vintage market.  I have to admit, it is pretty cool. 
  • From college professor to photographer.  I worked with a faculty member at our local college who has since retired and takes amazing wildlife photos.  Every year he and his wife take some of these photos and create a calendar that they sell.
  • From nurse to blogger.  I love to read and have always had an interest in writing.  Now that I am retired I decided to take the risk and build a blog.  It has been a fun, creative and humbling endeavor.  Stay tuned. 

Hopefully we have many healthy, active years of retirement ahead so seize this marvelous opportunity.  Take the time to reflect and determine how you want to reinvent yourself in this next phase of life.  I think we sharpen ourselves on each other’s creative interests, so I would like to hear how you are reinventing yourself in retirement. 

6 comments on “Reinvention in Retirement

  1. Hi Marian! I love the name of your blog. Of course I loved the book but I can see how it applies to reinventing yourself as well. You provide some great info here and I’m looking forward to digging through what you’ve already posted and where you will go from here in the future. Have a wonderful holiday no matter where or how you celebrate and I’ll “see” you in the New Year! ~Kathy

    1. Kathy – Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment. I am amazed and humbled that you are even considering digging through previous posts. (I am always open to advice from experienced, real authors.) Thanks again for your encouragement and I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year as well!

  2. I like the ” messy middle” description. It fits that period when you no longer miss your work routine but are still looking for a passion or interest to launch your next phase.

    Feeling productive is just as important in retirement as it was when employed. What is so fascinating is that interest will likely change, or expand, as your retirement unfolds. This is not a static time of life.

    1. Bob – I think you bring up a great point about our interests evolving over time, even in retirement. We need to be open to new possibilities and willing to let go of interests that no longer serve us. I am so glad “this is not a static time of life.” Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Marian, thanks for the shout-out on my book review of Weigel’s book, Reimagining Retirement. It’s certainly true in my retirement, as well. I had a smooth transition through the Messy Middle and now enjoy life as a “Professional Blogger,” “Co-Founder of a Charity,” and “Grandad.” My wife and I have built 83 free fences for low-income families with dogs on chains and enjoy the “Fido Family” that’s grown out of our “Freedom For Fido” charity work. Retirement is a time for reinvention, and I suspect I’ll continue to reinvent myself for years to come. Thanks again.

    1. Fritz – Establishing your charity and continued work on “Freedom For Fido” is a wonderful example of how you and your wife have reinvented yourselves in retirement while giving back in a meaningful way… 83 fences – WOW! That makes for a lot of happy dogs and owners. I had not thought of grandparenting as a reinvention in retirement, but it is definitely one of the best! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your own reinvention experiences.

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