What follows below is my musing at year end about the past 12 months of my life. My first year of “retirement”, and what lessons I have learned. I hope you find it meaningful and thought-provoking.
AN OLD DOC’S REFLECTIONS ON RETIREMENT
It is odd the way my first year of retirement has unfolded. A time that I looked forward to and worked so hard for has been full of surprises.
I worried that I would miss the ebb and flow of clinical practice, and the ego satisfaction of being a physician. I have seen that happen so many times to physicians who had no identity or interests outside of clinical medicine. Playing golf every day CAN get boring very quickly. (I, on the other hand, played 2 rounds of golf all year.)
Truthfully I have not for one minute missed my old life or practice.
Perhaps that is a testament to the years of preparation I made to be ready. Preparation to keep myself engaged in life, to be more physically healthy, to stay actively connected to others, to keep learning, and to have meaningful non-clinical work. (coaching)
I worried that I would be bored, with not enough to do to keep my mind active, that I would have to find multiple new things to keep myself busy all day long. Instead, I have come to realize that doing less is much better than doing more.
I worried I would become slovenly and sleep until noon. I haven’t. I still get up at 6 AM most days, but now I wake up well rested. The secret: I now go to bed earlier (10 PM) than in the past. I get 8 hours of sleep every night. I wake up refreshed and full of energy to start a new day. I do my exercise first thing in the morning when I have the energy and the mindset to get it done.
In retirement, you get to have the pleasure of becoming friends with yourself once again. One needs quiet time alone to best renew that friendship. Only in quiet solitude have I come to realize just how frenetic and crazy my life has been day in and day out, for decades. No way to hear my own inner voice of wisdom. Today I hear that voice regularly. I am comfortable in my own skin.
Certainly I have found new challenges and things to do which are fun. I am learning to enjoy gourmet cooking and the pleasure it brings to others. I am actually good at something I knew absolutely nothing about 1 year ago. I have taken several courses at Stanford, including most recently, The Psychology of Happiness. I enjoy breakfasts and lunches with old retired physician friends. We talk mostly about everything except medicine. What a pleasure.
I have committed myself to improving my own wellness by eating a more healthy diet in quality and quantity, and increasing my physical activity to include weight training for an hour 3x/week with the help of a personal trainer. I have become more svelte, lost 17 pounds, and gained self-esteem and energy. I am much more relaxed and happy.
Several of my goals for the first year of retirement are not yet completed, but I am already seeing the rewards. I vowed to re-organize my home office files, discard years of outdated paperwork and records, and clean out my closet and attic of old and/or unused “stuff” and clothing. I’m nearly done with that. To my surprise, that has had the unexpected effect of increasing my sense of well being, order, and calmness.
Perhaps the most important lessons of my first year of retirement have been learning the value of simplification, the value of “doing” less and “being” more, the joys of connecting and sharing myself more with others, challenging myself a bit to try learning new things, and yet not setting too many expectations for myself.
As you approach the NEW YEAR, think about the lessons I have learned this past year. How might you benefit from my experience and begin to adopt some of those lessons into your own life??