Besides the normal feeling that time does pass more quickly as we age (2013 is in 5 weeks?), that is an interesting question. I hadn't really thought about it until Nik asked about it. Obviously time is the one thing in our life that is irreplaceable and priceless. How we spend it is so much more more important than the state of our investment accounts or our various goals and passions.
The Ultimate Bankruptcy
Running out of time is the ultimate bankruptcy. Almost anything else can be handled, adjusted for, or dealt with. But, in the end, your time has been used up and the game is over. How you spend it between this moment and that point is critical to your overall happiness. So, to address the question on the table, "does the passage of time differ between your working and retired life?"
My answer is, "Yes." Importantly, note I said "my answer." Your feelings may differ and if so I sincerely hope you leave a comment. Time is so personal to each of us that there is no one, correct answer. But, for me after eleven years of retirement I believe I see time and it's passage much differently.
While I was working for a paycheck time was just something that passed. I would spend most of the day working, traveling, or killing time in a hotel room until going to sleep and starting all over again the next morning. Weekends at home were consumed by catching up on all the office work that piled up while I was on the road and doing those maintenance things required when you own a house. Weeks, even months passed with no real conscious feel for the passage of time.
My calendar revolved around the ratings periods that my client radio stations went through four times a year. The end-of-the-year push to get new contracts signed so I could keep doing what I did for a living also was a crucial period each year. Except for a few weeks of vacation time, I really don't think time registered with me except as something I never had enough of. As you might imagine my health and my relationship with Betty and the girls suffered from this lifestyle.
Whole years passed that I only remember parts of...if I look back at my travel schedule and recreate what I was doing and with whom in each of those cities. I didn't have a spiritual anchor or any hobbies to hold onto. Yes, the money was great and we didn't want for much. But, all that time just went.
Retirement Changes Everything
Starting in June, 2001 things began to change. I stopped traveling. My weeks and months were no longer defined by the needs of business clients, airline schedules, or hotel bookings. Time became a measurement of something that was real to me. The weeks, months, and seasons moved at the same speed but I was part of them, not just passing through them.
As I have written in previous posts, it took me a few years to find out what worked best for me in terms of a mixture of activities, leisure, and productivity. Like many newly retired folks, for several months I simply relished in the total freedom to do lots of nothing. After spending 150 days a year in hotel rooms I needed this period of nothingness. After awhile, though, that wasn't enough.
Then, I discovered the fun of ham radio. After studying to obtain the federal license required to transmit, I began to talk with fellow amateurs all over the world. I joined a local club, made new friends and even agreed to serve as the club's president for three years.
Later my volunteering side kicked in and I became a Stephen Minister, sort of a lay minister for those suffering from all sorts of life problems and issues. Then, my work with prison inmates and those recently released began. I discovered blogging in June 2010 and my life hasn't been the same since.
My sense of time in retirement is completely different from how I saw it while working. Now, I treasure it, look for ways to save it, and discover new things about my self as I spend it. My relationship to time isn't nearly as passive as it was when I worked.
The Realness of Time
Time has become much more real to me. As I move through my sixth decade I find it hard to think of myself as a 63 year old guy. So, I don't. My age means only a few things that really matter: I get Social Security and Medicare soon, I qualify for senior discounts, and I have enough aches and pains to participate in any conversion with my peers!
It also means I have the freedom to shape my life in a way that suits me. I have the control over most of my time each day to do what pleases me, make others feel better, and contribute to helping our world. While working, the time I had did not allow me the luxury of indulging in those three benefits.
So, yes, Nik, retirement time is different than working time. Does it pass too quickly? Absolutely. Do I hope I stay healthy and active for many more years? Sure. But, at least now I have a sense of its incredible value and blessing. It is a resource that is given to us, one minute at a time. In my satisfying retirement I get to choose how to spend it.