It is now more than two years since I ceased being a slave to the monthly paycheque. Instead I have reduced my working hours and focus on my consultancy and some select involvement in academia. It has taken almost as long for me to give myself permission to enjoy the things I had looked forward to doing, but didn’t have the time when in full-time employment.
I can guarantee for those of you still gainfully employed that you will wonder how on earth you will fill your days. Like me, you may also have the fear of endless days, months and years stretching ahead of you not knowing how to occupy yourself.
I can also guarantee that it won’t be long before you ask yourself, “how did I have the time to work?!” You will join the ranks of retirees who regularly chant the same mantra. However, it may take time to adjust to a new lifestyle. It certainly did me.
I have always enjoyed a walk in nature and I am privileged to live in and around beautiful natural spots, providing idyllic walking conditions. I have always found it therapeutic to get away from my study and the computer screen for my daily walk with my doggies. However, I was always conscious of time ticking away and the need to get back to my office and whatever commitment I was working on at the time. I found it very difficult to allow myself to relax totally and just enjoy my surroundings.
Now I can go for a walk and stop and enjoy the changes of the seasons. I use to look longingly at the benches dotted around my walks and now I can actually sit for as long as I want, immersed in the breath-taking scenery that these viewing points offered.
One of my forbidden pleasures was to take a book and while away some time at my favourite coffee shop, wrapping the sounds of chat and laughter around me like a cosy blanket. I would occasionally look up to indulge in another favourite pass time namely people watching. However, these times were few and far between as I could not justify wasting the time, as I perceived it.
Furthermore, any reading I did always related to my work and research I was working on at the time. Reading purely for the sake of it was a luxury I only allowed myself when on holiday and then limited to one book a year only.
Having fun was an unknown land. Not only did I not have the time, but it would have been very difficult for me to allow myself to indulge in what I would have perceived as frivolous activities. The Calvinistic work ethic was very much alive and kicking in my psyche and duty came before pleasure.
One of the few pleasures I allowed myself was a lie in over the weekends. It meant I could get up at around 8:00 as opposed to 5:30 or 6:00. For nearly two years I continued with this practice, justifying it to myself by saying that if I had a lie in every day it would no longer be a treat. I have finally come to realise that the world would not come to an end if I got up every morning at 8:00.
I still enjoy the sense of wickedness when during the winter in particular, I can turn around and snuggle further under the duvet when I wake up early, pitying the poor workers who have to brace the cold and embark on another day of stressful commuting and waiting on dark, wet and windy railway platforms or stuck in endless traffic jams.
It will take time to get over the nagging guilt that plague you when engaged in perceived forbidden pleasures once you retire. Each one of use has to find our own strategy in achieving it. It is worth the effort, though. One thing I can guarantee is that once you start learning to relax and enjoy yourself, it becomes easier and addictive. It also has an element of truancy to it. However, there is no headmaster lurking in the shadows, ready to administer the appropriate punishment!
Another point to consider that may help is that the spillover benefits to the rest of your life from enjoying yourself and indulging in activities that give you pleasure will be enormous. This thought will help to rid you of the guilt for having fun.
As with anything it takes practice, so start practicing!