Like many, my initial thoughts of retirement were 1) sleeping late, 2) no set schedule, 3) freedom to pursue new hobbies; maybe even breeding black labs!

I was teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) at OSU, loved my job, colleagues and the international students I worked with. I would miss teaching, but it was time to face the challenge of retirement.

My husband Len convinced me that breeding black labs was going to be a lot of work, so that soon was off my list. However, as soon as we retired, we moved to Bristol Village where a lot of interesting activities awaited me.

Try as I could, I couldn’t sleep past 6:30 a.m.; I’d had too many years of getting up early. We had time for a more leisurely breakfast, but then what? I soon discovered the exercise classes offered in the auditorium, and another new resident and I decided to walk from 8:30-9:00 a.m. on MWF (we’ve now been doing that for 14 years!)

It’s been fun as we catch up on BV news and life in general. Soon the pool, casual swims or exercise and later water aerobics came into the picture, as did line dancing. Suddenly I had many hours filled with activities I enjoyed, as committee and group commitments also became part of my life.

As I reflect on these activities, I realize that I need a life with some structure and schedule, but with flexibility. Too many free hours leave me feeling I haven’t accomplished much for myself or my community. How many hours can one spend cleaning house, shopping, or doing laundry?

Most are “can wait” chores. Life changes, quickly, and one has to be flexible. Enjoyable activities have to be forgotten when important events in one’s life take precedent. That’s a given. Flexibility is a quality needed at every stage of one’s life. My husband frequently reminds me that some things are inconveniences, not problems. In other words, “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

Consciously or subconsciously, we all need to be with people, to feel that we are contributing to our society, and to have a reason to get up and look forward to each day. Now, the few days that have no schedule are special; they are “free” days to do as I like, perhaps something new and different and without external commitments.

So, each day, those structured and those unstructured, provides pleasure and meaning as I become more mindful of each day. Yes, retirement does not mean retreat from the world, but rather it creates a new challenge: to enjoy and appreciate life to its fullest through an awareness that one still needs flexibility and structure to feel fulfilled.

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