Life keeps us busy, working, raising children, trying to keep up with all the events and activities that our life entails. Most of us look down the tunnel thinking someday things will slow down a bit, we will do some things we just don’t have time for now. For most people that means reaching retirement and letting go of that 40-hour work week that had dominated their lives for years.

People look at retirement differently. Some dread the thought, while others count down the years, days and hours until it occurs. I’ve met both kinds, and I guess, like each of us is different, our views of retirement differ as well.

Some people are defined by their career or jobs. Yes, it’s important, but like they say when you’re on your death bed you won’t say “I wish I had worked more.” One of my sisters was somewhat like that. She worried how she would spend her time when she retired. Although she had a garden and crocheted, she had few other hobbies. But when the time came, she retired and found lots of things to do. She now makes Barbie-doll clothes for underprivileged children, dressing a doll and making a wardrobe for each to be given out at Christmas.

It always amazes me how people expand and grow after they retire. Sometimes it is just devoting a large portion of their time to volunteer work in their communities or churches. At other times it’s going in a completely different direction than how they spent their early lives, learning new skills, even uprooting themselves and moving long distances.

I recently met a woman who had retired from administrative work and had purchased a small acreage in Maryland where she and her husband raise pygora goats. She would drive hundreds of miles, hours in her small SUV to go to goat shows in the Midwest. The goats would be housed in the back section of the vehicle with a mat and straw to protect the car. I can imagine how someone might do a double take seeing a goat looking out the side window of a vehicle going down an interstate highway.

Another recent acquaintance lived in Colorado and was an accountant for Harley Davidson while her husband was an engineer. Upon retirement they went to Texas, purchased a flock of goats and she now judges goat shows everywhere in the US. Quite a change from being a white-collar worker.

Some retirees continue a hobby they had little time for when working but expand and enjoy it after retirement. Others find something entirely new, starting from scratch with something they had no idea they would enjoy doing. There are many, many activities and hobbies one can undertake.

Think of George W. Bush, who has taken up painting in his retirement, quite successfully. His portraits of world leaders was a recent focus at The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas. Probably the beginning of any of these endeavors is just taking that first step, challenging yourself to do something new.

One of my friends was told by his wife that he had to find something to keep busy with when he retired, or else. He chose to become a spinner and weaver and is enthralled with his new occupation. Like all of us he is just as busy or busier than when he worked that 40-hour a week job.

Another retired friend volunteers at hospitals and nursing homes with her certified visitation dogs, bringing joy and comfort to those hospitalized or shut-in. She took her love of dogs and expanded that after retirement to bring some happiness to others.

These people may be retired, but they are vibrant and alive, focusing on life. I think it would amaze us if we knew the many volunteer hours retirees put into their communities and churches. Many companies offer volunteer opportunities for their retired employees and document these hours.

Retiring is not the end of the world, but an opportunity to grow and develop as a person and become quite knowledgeable about a personal interest. Many retirees choose to continue their educations finishing high school or earning degrees. It’s a personal achievement that has been their goal for years. With fewer demands on their time, and usually a little more spare cash, they can realize those dreams.

You often hear retirees acknowledge that they don’t know how they worked 40 hours a week at a job; they are so busy they would not be able to find time for a job, although many hold part-time jobs of some kind. We have more time for travel, more time to pursue leisure activities and more time to volunteer on a regular basis wherever our talents are needed.

The bottom line is that retired folks are very talented. They have spent years honing skills and talents and have a store of knowledge that needs to be tapped by others. If used, those skills and talents can make a huge difference in the lives of others.

Perhaps retirement is not the best word to use for those of us who left the job market; we’ve just moved on to bigger and better things.


Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer’s daughter and now as a farmer’s wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.