Reinvent: Five Midlife Strategies After Retirement
Or, what I wish I'd done better after quitting my job
Call it a midlife crisis or a midlife reinvention or a reaction to the turbulent time in which we are living, more and more people are reevaluating their careers and their lifestyles, and thinking longingly about dreams deferred by choice or by circumstance. If you're lucky enough, you leave your job and set out to find your purpose.
In December of 2018, I walked away from a good job and into an unknown future. I approached the first several months with one question in mind—who do I want to become? To be honest, I churned for a while, but maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
Follow these five steps for your midlife reinvention
Make a plan before quitting | Like retirement, financial preparation is critical.
Create a realistic budget. Take a hard look at your savings and talk to a pro. What do you need to pay yourself each month and how long can you comfortably sustain it? I tracked every single penny spent for four months. I also factored in emergency funds and a few big-ticket items I was not willing to give up, like an annual beach vacation.
Figure out health care. The biggest thing I miss about having a job is good insurance. I didn't start researching options until it was almost too late. If it weren't for a helpful agent on the other end of the phone, I would have missed the deadline for enrollment and gone without for the year (tax penalty included). Health care will be stressful and complicated, especially if you carry your family on your plan. Start early.
Talk to your partner, your kids, and your parents. Set expectations about spending and schedules. Expect a modicum of resentment if you're skiing on a mid-week powder day while your partner is slogging away at the office. Try not to rub it in.
Take time to recharge | Don't skip this step. You worked hard. You deserve it.
Rest. It took about a month for my ‘work-mares' to go away, but soon I was sleeping through the night without anxiety dreams. Go to bed when you're tired. Take naps. Read for hours. Do what feels restful to you, and don't beat yourself up for being ‘lazy.'
Play. Take up a new hobby. Take a walk. Visit a museum. Work on a craft project. Play like you've got no responsibilities whatsoever. I spent $40 on glitter and stickers and made weird collages and cards. The process was liberating and fun, and it woke up the creative side of my brain.
Commit to nothing. Sure, feed your neighbor's cat while they're on vacation, but don't sign-up to volunteer at the pet shelter. Take a yoga class, but don't sign on for the teacher training. See the difference? Do not take on any new work projects for at least six months if you can.
Learn and explore | Fill up your calendar and get way out of your comfort zone.
Get out there. Network. Attend events. Take a class. Volunteer. Cold call someone you find interesting. This is not easy, especially if you are an introvert like me, but incredibly valuable. Learning what you are not interested in is as valuable as discovering what you do like.
Do some personal growth work. Continue to recharge regularly, carving out space for yourself to reflect, but go deeper. Why are you seeking change now? What is your deepest heart's desire? These are not small questions. Therapy or a personal coach might help. I dove into memoirs and self-help books and podcasts. The Artist's Way challenged and changed me. This inspiring Brené Brown Ted Talk might change how you think about things in twenty minutes.
Build a tech stack. Ugh, I know. But here's the thing. EVERYTHING IS TECH and, well, I’ll just say it. Don’t be the middle-aged lady who uses the excuse “I’m not techy” for everything from Zoom to Email to Social Media. Figure it out. Whatever you end up doing next, you will be using technology. Polish skills you already have, and adopt new tech that can help you manage your life, connect with your friends and family, be more creative. These are essential skills.
Reflect | Reinvention is exhausting. The more possibilities I explored, the more my journal became a litany of ‘must,' ‘should,' and ‘need to.' I was fast-forwarding my life—just like I had done while working. Hit the pause button and ask yourself a few questions.
When am I happiest?
What one or two common threads run through everything I've explored?
Am I ready to commit to a new path?
I falter—deer in the headlights frozen—when there are too many possibilities and I thrive when my path is clear. Upon reflection, I was able to let some shit go and narrow my focus with greater clarity. (ICYMI - my answers were at home, writing and learning, and hell yes!)
Reignite | It’s time to let go of expectations and become who you are.
Set goals. Goal-setting is one work practice I can’t give up. Don’t judge me; I have whiteboards in my home office. Putting my desires in writing helps hold me accountable. Find a way to set your intention.
Establish new habits. Retirement is getting comfortable. Reinspirement means breaking old patterns. Everyone will have their list of bad habits to break and good habits to establish—less time on social media, eat healthier, read more, yadda yadda. But what else? We are more successful when routines align with goals, and now we have new ones!
Get down to it. I love the outdoors and my old farmhouse. I want to have a garden, climb mountains, practice yoga, learn to cook like a pro and play guitar, and a million other things…but I am inspired by writing and schedule my days around it.
I read somewhere that writers will use 20,000 words to create 4,000. So too, we need scores and scores of experiences to create a fulfilling life. How else can we discover all that is possible within us?