When we tore down and rebuilt our house a few years ago friends asked, “What do you like the most about your new house?” and my answer was always “the little things, the improvements over the old house that others are less likely to notice.” In fact, I loved everything about the house, but what I noticed most at the beginning were the small changes that made things more convenient and different from what I was accustomed to: having enough electrical outlets — and all for three-pronged plugs — a shower that offered more than a trickle of water, and space for storage.
Now, as I reflect on two solid months of retirement (I’m not counting July when I returned to work for a week), and what this has meant to me, I come back to the little things. I can spread out errands and don’t find myself spending most Saturdays driving six blocks, getting out of my car, taking care of one errand and getting back in the car, driving a mile, getting out, ad nauseam. I can decide to go to a movie on a Tuesday afternoon, make an appointment for a haircut or a teeth cleaning when I feel like it, step outside for a walk as soon as the rain stops, or go to the zoo to see the new meerkat exhibit and be able to get as close to the animals as possible without waiting in line just to be able to balance on my tiptoes to peer into a window. (In fact, I saw a movie and went to the zoo this week.)
Time is what sets retirees apart from others. Oh, I know we all say that we’re busier than ever and that we don’t know how we ever had time to work, but there’s a huge difference between now and then. Now we have much more control over how we spend our time. Without exception, every day in the last two months I have felt grateful to have a chance to explore where I live, sit down for coffee with friends from the past as well as former and current colleagues, do something on the spur of the moment, write, exercise, teach, and learn. I don’t intend to ever waste this gift of time.