What is the biggest difference that I have noticed since I have retired.
How tired and drained I was – emotionally, mentally and physically when I hit the beach initially on June 17, 2011.
Tired, Stressed and Out of Shape
You just don’t realize how beat down, tired, stressed out and out of shape that you are, when you are out there working. Putting in all those hours to have the money for the lifestyle you have chosen. When you are in the middle of the doing, you don’t realize what the “rat race” takes out of you, it has become just the way it is.
For many years I combatted the tiredness and everything else, by exercising (mostly as a runner), which helped most of the time. I usually went to the gym or ran, but a fall off a roof in 2008 and in February 2010 a knee injury restricted my physical activity a great deal.
As the knee deteriorated, so did my health and desire to exercise – if something hurts (a lot) you just don’t enjoy doing it.
After going through the standards of care continuum over the course of the summer of 2010. The doctor originally diagnosed me with something really bad as far as knees go in September 2010. School had just started when I got the diagnosis, so I delayed surgery until May 2011, when I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Yes I got fat (over 200 pounds on a spindly 5’7″ frame) and didn’t do a lot to working-out that last year, which didn’t help matters at all.
Most days after getting home from work (I usually got there early and left late), I would sit in my easy chair, the dog would leap up and sit in my lap and we would fall asleep for 30-45 minutes until supper was ready.
After doing the dinner time chores I would sit down and watch sports channels for an hour or so then start working on whatever had been brought home from work, that needed to get done or planned for.
Then once I got all or at least most of the work that I had brought home done, I would then participate in #chats on subjects that I was interested in on Twitter or watch/participate in the numerous online webinars, all in the guise that these were making me better at my profession.
I did this most nights, weekends, school breaks, when I should have been resting or recuperating. What all these extra hours I did I thought was making me more effective in my profession.
The truth is as I look back those activities were taking my down-time away from me and I was living my job 12-14 hours a day. I was not giving myself time to rest.
All Jobs Have Stress
All jobs have stressful parts and after a while, constantly eating adrenaline burgers, does something to you. In my final year I always seemed to be sick a great deal more than in the past, having that constant headache or just feeling blaaahhhh all the time.
Add those to not being able to sleep after going to bed, tossing and turning thinking about what happened that day, dreading what was going to happen the next day or trying to think of a way to reach a student. Then getting up at 5:00 A.M., commuting 30 minutes to work, no matter how bad you felt most of the time and feeling guilty when you stayed home sick – because “you should have gone in.”
My wife was starting to get worried about me, she was saying that I always had a “gray look” to go along with being tired all of the time. I kept pooh poohing her concerns, but looking back, however, they were signs of how stressed out and tired I was at the time, all the time.
TheWife had gone through her own battles with health and work. Due to some very similar circumstances she had retired in November 2009 and the difference in her was very evident and definitely positive. We talked a lot last spring about what was important in life to us and the kind of lifestyle that we wanted to live. After all the talking we decided to wait and see what the result of my surgery was in May before making any final decisions.
Luckily when the doctor got in there to look around at the knee, it was only some damaged cartilage and an easy repair job. It was a big relief, I still had my own knee! That helped make our decision a lot easier, if it had been more than a simple repair job, I would have stuck around for the medical benefits that I would have needed.
Based on everything that was going on, our conversations, the direction that my former profession was heading (which was vastly different than what I believe in) and how work was affecting my health, we decided to give full retirement for both of us a try.
Which meant there would be some of changes to our lifestyle based on a vastly reduced income, we would be going from above average in combined income to below poverty level in less than 2 years. Our saving grace was that we didn’t have any bills, beyond the typical monthly expenses. No mortgage, no credit card balances, no car payments, a little bit of savings, none of what is part and parcel of the typical American consumer.
As you can tell TheWife is a very smart and frugal woman, otherwise we would not have been able to even think about retirement, much less be able to do it.
Resignation and Retirement
I submitted my resignation on June 1st and began to dream about what I would be doing in retirement.
The last 17 days of teaching went by like a blur and I really don’t remember a lot about those last few days, except that I was still recovering from my surgery, doing physical therapy and trying my best to leave on a high note and I had to tell my 7th graders that I wouldn’t be coming back for their 8th grade year – which was kind of tough.
I must have done something right, there were two others who were retiring as educators and even though I was not retiring as an educator and had only been at the school for 2 years, they included me as the third person in the retirement celebrations.August 17th was the effective date of my resignation, but school let out on June 17th for summer break and that was when I effectively stopped working for someone else’s clock and became retired.
It didn’t mean because I retired that I sat on my ass and did nothing. That isn’t and wouldn’t be me, I was busier than ever and seemed to never have time to go many places or do things beyond the yard. No I was very busy, but it was a different kind of busy than I was used to. I was in charge of my schedule, no clock to beat and freedom to choose what I did that day.
The changes since that date are nothing less than remarkable!
While the knee is not 100% and probably never will be and I have accepted that, but hold out hope that the therapist was correct in telling me it would take 8-12 months to be able to run pain-free. I have begun to walk, hike and yes run again – a certain amount of sucking it up is necessary, but worth it. I am now running/jogging 2-3 miles 4-5 days a week – not very fast, but I am doing it.
I also have taken an interest in gardening, now that I have the time for it and doing a little meatball carpentry on the side. These are activities that I enjoy and which get me outside much more than I was and I know that I am much healthier now.
I also have a secret weapon in the war to fitness, a Jack Russell Terrier called Bennie Bean, he is a 5 mile a day dog. If he doesn’t walk 5 miles a day, he is just too full of energy to be around. Needless to say between TheWife, Stepdaughter #1 and myself he gets his 5 miles a day.
Almost 20 pounds have gone away in the past 5 months, without drastically changing how I eat (I was eating 80% healthy food before this – thanks to TheWife) – yes I know that I still eat too many things made with sugar and I like my chips (TheWife is a great cook and baker), but I don’t over-indulge too often (keeping things reasonable is what I try for) and when I do pig-out, I don’t stress out about it.
We don’t eat a lot of processed food and our garden provides us with veggies and greens (still) and it is comforting to know what has been put on them. Basically, I just try to do a little better each day.
I no longer fall asleep, in the middle of every afternoon, like I did almost every day for the first 3 months I was home, when I would fall asleep for an hour or two and the afternoon would be gone. That tired all the time feeling is finally leaving me, but even after 5 months, there are some days that it comes back and I just have to stop and rest for a while. Thankfully those times are becoming fewer and fewer and farther in between instances.
I really didn’t realize how run down and stressed out I had become, until I started to slow down, exercise more and get outside a lot more. No I read somewhere (I wish that I had kept it) that it takes 6-12 months after you stop working to get rid of the collective stress and tiredness you body bottles up inside. I didn’t think that your body can “store” that crap, but after the past 5 months, I tend to believe it a lot more than I did before – not a true convert yet, but definitely gone from a disbeliever, to being a lot more open to the idea.
The Correct Decision
Fo us, the decision to retire has been the correct one. We don’t have the monthly retirement income that the “experts” say is enough, but we think it will be enough for us. If it isn’t, then part-time jobs are easier to find than full-time ones with benefits, so I really believe that we will be just fine as long as there are no big ticket items that have to be gotten for a while.
The big question I have been asked is “Would I do it again?”
After all I had job security, was pretty well respected in my profession and making decent money. The answer comes to me very quickly. Yes I would do it again, the time was right and you know something. I haven’t really thought all that much about going back to teaching or trying to find another position in education.
I don’t really miss the stress and everything that goes along with teaching in today’s classroom. If I did I really believe that that my health would be a lot worse than it is right now and how stressed out I would be feeling – not worth it to me, I like being healthy.
That is simply because I am enjoying the life that I have right now too much and time is much more my own than it has ever been, but that is a different post.
For me retirement was the correct choice.
We all age and will die, but how we live is our choice.
By the way, the other day.
TheWife was commenting that I no longer have that gray pallor about me and I just look more healthy. So I guess this retirement thing is working. Now if I could only look like George Clooney, naw I am very happy with who I am – warts and all.