Monday, April 9, 2012

What I Miss, What I Don't

I retired two years ago today.

It's interesting to think about how life has changed in these two years and how distant the time before seems. The changes in April 2010 were profound: I retired. My husband retired. We closed escrow on the sale of our home of 29 years. And, bundling our three surprisingly calm cats into the back seat of our Honda Civic, we relocated 500 miles from L.A. to rural Arizona. All in a nine-day period.

Life was too frantic for prolonged goodbyes and looks back then. Now that we're settled into our new life, I think about the time before -- what I miss and what I don't. One list is shorter than the other.

What I Miss.... 

I find I miss certain people the most -- friends since childhood, friends from 42 years of work, my commuter bus buddies -- from joyous driver Nelson who actually loved navigating the 405 freeway and my friend Irene Rodriguez, with whom, over five years of commuting to work at UCLA, I shared so many impassioned political discussions as the bus crawled through endless hours of freeway congestion. Lately, there have been many times when I've heard a bit of political insanity and have longed to carry on about it with Irene. Email and phone visits back and forth are fun. But nothing quite beats the joy of whispered ranting  -- and laughing -- with Irene on the bus.

There are times when I miss those heady days of my writing career when Oprah and The Today Show and USA Today were calling.

And I miss those days when, as a therapist, I felt deep satisfaction in making a difference to a patient, perhaps easing their sadness, perhaps helping them to rediscover their own strengths.

But such times had largely faded into warm, personal memories well before my actual retirement.

I miss the easy availability of favorite places -- the beach, the mountains, favorite stores and restaurants.

But mostly I miss being geographically close to family and some treasured friends.

What I Don't Miss At All:

Horrific L.A. commutes and planning life events to avoid getting stuck in traffic

The stress of multiple jobs and responsibilities or --to be honest -- working any job

Sunday afternoon depressions, knowing the next day started another work week

Getting up at 4 a.m. for the commute to work

Fear of layoffs

Office politics

The times of not seeing the light of day, of missing whole seasons because of my frantic work schedule, never feeling my time was truly my own

General workplace pettiness and insanity -- especially the instances -- in several workplaces over the last 20 years of working-- where I was sternly instructed to keep my previous (or ongoing) writing achievements a guilty secret lest the knowledge of these upset, threaten or cause resentment among co-workers

The heartbreak -- largely because of such secrets -- of not being authentic, not being myself  for too many of those last years

Although I'm grateful to have been continuously employed -- except for one awful year in the early Nineties -- and to have met many wonderful people in the course of 42 years of working, I don't miss the times of working for others at all.

And while I loved working for many years as a full-time freelance writer, I don't miss the financial anxiety of dealing with the ups and downs of the publishing industry. Only now, when I have a retirement income that doesn't require huge investments of my time and energy, can I write with a sense of freedom and joy in finding my own voice, and taking the risk of writing what pleases me.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities that come with retirement.

I feel so blessed to have these years of relative good health and lingering young old age, to write with an open heart and mind, to embrace each day as my own, to be fully myself perhaps for the first time ever.


  1. I was so happy to read this as I am eligible to retire after next school year, when I will be 51. I'm seriously contemplating what I would do with myself if I do go ahead with retirement.

    Your post really helped me calrify some things. Thank you, as always, for your warm wisdom. You help more people than you know!

  2. Great timing for me as I plan retirement in the next couple of years! I always enjoy your insightful and well written posts!

  3. Wonderful post! I can relate.

  4. I am so happy for you. I am glad you are finally free to be yourself.
    But I have to admit you are never totally free as so many people don't value such things as freedom of opinion and thought. As for me I love it cause it gives one a chance to think, understand and explore further issues which make a difference in the world.

  5. You delineated the pluses and minuses of retirement so well here. I have to agree with you on so many points because the working world seems so universal. I'm not sure retirement is as universal of an experience. I think you planned well for your retirement and that is why it is so satisfactory for you.

  6. You are obviously revelling in retirement and it shows, Kathy. Long may that continue.

  7. I love this post. I'm sure being aware of the good and the "missed" helps you to be more thankful for the situation you're in.
    Sounds like you had some really interesting working years. But the traffic you mention makes me glad I don't live in a city that big.

  8. I am just glad you found your way to the internet to share with us the things you want to write about.

  9. I haven't worked in 16 years because I'm now a stay at home mom. I just wrote about that on a comment on another blog. I wouldn't want to go back to working again at all. I did enjoy it but it was hectic too. We lived in Maryland for 4 years and couldn't stand the traffic there. We couldn't wait to move back to West Virginia. I miss the variety of shopping there but I know I couldn't live there again after living on our farm for 16 years.

  10. So glad your 'what I don't miss' was longer than the stuff you miss! Retirement, with all its implications, is surely the hardest part of life.

  11. Your posts are such a breath of fresh air and there's such clarity in your writing! I enjoy your posts so much, and I feel like I'm lifting my head out of the squirrel cage of my life, and have a moment to see/read what's really important in life when I visit here. Thank you.

  12. Nice summary. I agree completely!

    I remember when I first read the cartoon strip "Dilbert". I was sure that someone in my company was drawing it as a side job. I didn't know it was like that nearly everywhere.

    I don't miss it a bit.

  13. I love retirement. I do more now than I did any time I was working. My last job was part time, temporary, security for the Padres....and it was wonderful fun until I wore out.

  14. You may fel this is sour grapes but my husband has retired I am still working and feel I am missing out on so much contact with children who visit through the week due to shift work he gets invited to go out with them I am resentful and jealous of what he has and he sees grandchildren so much more. Him and the boys go visting his relations which we are estranged from i fel very isoltive and alone. Although I have told him how i feel the mantra is what do you want me to do what I would like is for the children to see that I am as importantt as there father I have always felt second fiddle but I am angry frustrated as a mother of two boys you already feel less important and have no role I find myself wishing constantly we had had girls . It is no use telling me to speak to the children as I have tried this and they get angry with me and say that is how it is. It sounds so petty when I speak but I missed out having two boys and now missing out again the grandchildren who our boys as well which means its boys club again I don't want to be this angry and jealous as I know I could end up losing everything I try to keep perspective but it's getting harder