Searching for balance in retirement

Sometimes it seems like it’s been much less than two years since I was wrapping up my final weeks of employment and looking forward to the day I retire. At other times, it’s as if I’ve been living this leisurely lifestyle for many years and I can hardly remember having full-time work obligations.

I had a lot of plans for my retirement: I wanted to take classes, travel, socialize with friends, complete household projects, and explore my creative side. I also wanted to allow enough leisure time in my non-existent schedule to relax, read books, and daydream.

Mission accomplished… sort of.

Is it possible to have too much leisure? Maybe so.
Is it possible to have too much leisure? Maybe so.

Since retiring, my husband and I have gone on some amazing trips (and more are planned), I’ve taken advantage of free—and nearly free—educational opportunities, I’ve joined a wonderful book club, we’ve completed multiple house projects (and have more in the works), and I’ve spent time writing and improving my photography skills. Life is good.

But, just recently, I’ve started to struggle with the feeling that I would like to do more, that I want to have more to show for my time. This doesn’t mean that I desire to go back to full-time work, or even that I want to find part-time employment. What I want is more balance in my life.

Besides receiving a regular paycheck and subsidized healthcare insurance, going to work every day provided a lot of intangible benefits. Daily interactions with colleagues wove a social network that helped to make work a pleasurable experience. Because I worked for a large company, my network web included people from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse interests and skills.

I miss that.

I also miss the feeling of working together towards a common goal. We took on projects and supported each other as we met our objectives. In addition, work gave me opportunities to challenge myself and to enjoy the feeling of satisfaction when I successfully expanded my comfort zone.

I’m not sure where this sense that something is missing will lead me. Exploring volunteer opportunities might be a good start. Perhaps I need to get involved with a cause that I believe in. Maybe some type of part-time employment will supply the diverse community I miss. Perhaps it’s a combination of all three possibilities, or maybe something else.

I fully realize how lucky I am that I actually have a choice about how I spend my time. If I make no changes at all, I have a pretty good life. But if I can find something that allows me to make a positive contribution, I think my retirement could be more purposeful and satisfying. It also might help me re-discover some or all of those missing elements: enjoying an expanded and more diverse social network, being inspired by a vision shared with others, and embracing the opportunity to help others and to challenge myself.

The key will be to find something that also allows me to travel when I want and to enjoy the retirement I envisioned when I said good-bye to full-time employment.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

29 thoughts on “Searching for balance in retirement”

  1. I love the lead in photo. It says a thousand words about what is so awesome about retirement. It took me about 5 years to find my new, post retirement self, and it involved no thinking or effort on my part, no “I shoulds.” It just happened, like life, and the direction my life has gone is something I never could have planned for, taken a class for, or imagined. Maybe the answer is just surrendering to the flow.

    1. The zen of retirement… I’m pretty good at surrendering to the flow (definitely not an “A” type personality) so I was a little surprised at these feelings. We’ll see where they take me. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found your bliss.

  2. I’ve been retired for five years and your blog explains perfectly the lack I’ve been feeling for a while. Like you, I’m not sure what it is I want to do, but I’m actively looking and will, undoubtedly, find something that will ignite my passion.

    1. It’s comforting to know that what I’m experiencing is what many retirees go through. I’ve just started to feel this way so I don’t know where I’ll end up… but there are a lot of options out there, I’m sure. Good luck with your search too!

  3. Yes, I hear you. My former company called me a few weeks back to do a training program and I’m looking forward to it. Limited time commitment, maximum flexibility and money too. Wish I could do a few sessions a year. That would be perfect. I have a retired friend who volunteers at a hospital one day a week. She’s in the admin group (not with patients) and works on different projects. That has given her the social interaction and sense of accomplishment she was looking forward to (along with a free lunch). Good luck to you and be sure to update us if you find something that works for you.

    1. It sounds like you have an interesting gig going on… limited, engaging, flexible, and money! I really thought I’d be volunteering by now but I haven’t found the right fit yet. I will definitely by sharing my journey!

      1. I volunteered at my local animal shelter and was told they didn’t need me. Me? An animal person! Probably a good thing or we’d be bursting at the seams with critters here at home. I haven’t found anything that moves me enough to give up my (wonderful) free time. Good luck.

  4. Add me to the list of people who feel the same way. I really enjoy being retired and having the flexibility to crave out what I’m going to do with my days, but like you said … something feels missing – all those things you mentioned.

    Keep telling myself it’s the Type A personality kicking in.

  5. We’re in very similar places because we retired at roughly the same time. I too sometimes miss that connection with other people, each of us forming the nucleus of a greater whole. But I sure agree with you how it’s nice to have the choice of what to do. in the end for me that may be more important. Stay tuned, huh? 🙂

  6. Janis, I would highly recommend looking into volunteering. Find something that fulfills – reading to kids, helping the homeless, delivering meals to shut-ins, etc. All the best, Keith

    1. Meals on Wheels is of interest, as is kitty cuddler at the local humane society, and volunteer usher at several local theaters. I also would like to find something that would put me in regular contact with a group of like-minded folks, giving me that work-type social structure I miss.

      1. Try different things on for size. Some are not set up for sole volunteers. If you have a small group, it may be better with some. My wife does the Meals on Wheels and loves it, which is good for individuals.

  7. Ahh – finding balance in life. It seems like a one step at a time kind of thing that, for me, is always changing. If you are looking for something, you’ll find it. Happy searching!

  8. I have always had at least two volunteering projects on the go since I retired, and that gives me structure and the feeling of being part of a team. I have walked away from things (not in a way to let anyone down, but at a suitable point) if they no longer work for me. We’re retired, we can do that! The key, as someone said above, is to find something you care passionately about and can get your teeth into. I also find one thing leads to another, so if I offer help with something small the person often comes back with a bigger offer once they realise I’m reliable. I got to volunteer at a local book festival that way. There are many opportunities out there!

    1. You are right about lots of opportunities! And, you are also correct to point out that I can “test-drive” a few without obligation (other than not leaving anyone in the lurch). I think I’m going to have fun looking around!

  9. I went through similar feelings last summer/fall. Fortunately, I had reconnected with a long-time friend soon after I retired and we agreed to launch a non-profit together. It’s been a lot of work but it’s been perfect for me since I get as involved as I want when I’m around but I am free to take off whenever. I am in the midst of an experiment right now. I agreed to work three afternoons a week, Feb through April, and get paid (a little) to help get our nonprofit’s administrative systems up and running. In the meantime, I’m in talks with another friend who runs an organization that does HR outsourcing/consulting projects for nonprofits about me potentially doing some paid projects when I’m in town. I’m finding I get bored when we’re home for longer periods and I enjoy working again (very part-time) PLUS this could help supplement the travel allowance! But you’re right – it’s about finding the right balance. I’m wondering if we will travel LESS as time goes on, thereby giving me MORE time for some of this part-time work. I have to say, though, this 3-afternoon-a-week thing (with pay!) feels almost perfect!!!

    1. It sounds like you found the perfect fit! I think you are right about traveling less and less as time goes on… maybe that will be the time for more volunteering. In the mean time, I’d like to find something VERY flexible to get involved with. I love the idea of working with a start-up – that’s when things are exciting!

  10. I love how you have successfully recognized that something is missing and admitted it. My consulting business addresses this very dilemma in working with retirees and the soon-to-be-retired. I would love to feature this post on my business website, with your permission of course.

  11. Retirement normally is followed by a period of grief. Loss of purpose, a friendship based world and so much more leaves most of us without a target. I went through it as did my husband and everyone I know.

    But, now is the time when something will jump out at you…you will find a creative energy that guides you to take a risk and move on.

    Be grateful and wake up with purpose…even if it involves weeding and scrubbing the floor. One day it will just fall into place.

    The beautiful thing is that nothing you find needs to trap you forever…you can make as many changes as you want. Good luck!

    1. I guess I was slow to have these feelings of something being missing. Fortunately, life truly is great so, until I can find a outlet for my energies, I’m happy with my retired world. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!

  12. In my two plus years of retirement I haven’t yet felt this way. Maybe it will happen to me sometime. Volunteering is a great idea but I don’t think all volunteer opportunities are created equal. I’ve heard stories from friends who tried it but didn’t feel appreciated ~ or worse. You’ll find the right fit, Janis. Also, would it be possible to get together with some of those former co-workers for dinner on a regular basis? That might help satisfy the craving for diversity. Such an interesting topic! Keep us posted.

    1. I think you are right about volunteering. There are a lot of opportunities out there, but not all are created equal. I do get together with former co-workers now and then which is great and I have a good friendship network… I think what I miss are the daily interactions with people who don’t necessarily rise to away-from-work friendships, but who I find interesting and engaging. The right kind of volunteer opportunity or group could provide those touch points.

  13. I totally get this. Enjoy your free time because now that you have put your intention out there, I think the universe is going to send a time consuming opportunity your way very soon.

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