Tom is not someone who expected to struggle with the free time of retirement. He had never been into his work. Whereas it provided a steady income and valuable medical benefits it did not give him those “yes!” moments described by Lisbie Rae in her reflections on cobbling together a life with purpose. When the opportunity to retire came along, Tom jumped at it. Now he was not beholden to anyone and could do whatever he wanted – photography, hanging out with his buddies, and so much more. Here is what Tom told me about his years long journey to find himself in retirement.
Tom started retirement with the purchase of a large computer screen for editing the photos he enjoyed taking. Learning to use Lightroom (image manipulation software) and then refining his photos was creative and gratifying. That said, although he showed his work to his wife, the picture manipulation was a solitary pursuit. Long hours in front of the computer screen left him feeling lost.
Linking up with buddies to ride dirt bikes or go snowmobiling was lots of fun, yet had its downside. Long hours away from his also newly retired wife, recovering from the hangovers that inevitably followed a boys outing, and recognizing that his chums also had wives and lives gave Tom pause.
Then Tom threw himself into a passion project, building on his interest in engines and taking things apart. Tom learned a lot and met some interesting people; his wife was also engaged in the project. Still, in many ways, he was as isolated as he had been in front of the computer screen. More critically, Tom had moved away from being the physically active guy he had been most of his life. He complained about a sore hip and, uncharacteristically, was resisting pushing himself physically.
And then Tom read the book Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, Sexy and Smart — Until You’re 80 and Beyond by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge. Tom can’t recall exactly what triggered him to read the book, but once in his hands, he couldn’t get enough of it. Authors Crowley and Lodge were busting the myth that decay was inevitable with age. Without a background in human physiology, Tom was enthralled with the information provided.
Tom then got the Younger Next Year Exercise Program, and a new daily exercise routine was born. That sore hip of Tom’s? With the new routine, his hip has not been sore in months. Lucky him!
A year since he picked up Younger Next Year, Tom continues a near daily exercise routine that includes cycling. He’s lost 15 pounds and has more energy. Now in his early 60s, Tom says he hasn’t been in such good shape since his mid-40s. According to Tom, he’s still figuring out his purpose; however, his renewed vigor has given him the energy and motivation to look at retirement as a time to learn and grow, not just rest and relax.
Tom’s focus on physical activity was a great place to start finding balance in his life. Similarly, neurosurgeon Joseph Maroon describes prioritizing his health as the first step in reimagining a different life for himself. Unlike Tom, Maroon was completely absorbed in his work when his life started falling apart. Maroon’s book Square One provides a framework for finding balance in life whether while still in the workforce or in retirement. You can read my review of Square One here.