This time around I want to deal with one of the facets that tends to get overlooked until after retirement has started: finding a passion, strong interest, or hobby that you look forward to each day. From personal experience I can assure you that waiting until you leave work is a mistake. That's what I did and ended up drifting for several years.
No Hobbies, No Passion = Problem
Because my career consumed virtually all my time and energy, I did not have any outside interests to turn to. After work ended I filled my time with sports on TV, reading, or puttering around the house. Betty and I did take several major vacations within the first five years of retirement, but that became a very expensive way to fill my free time.
Brief flings at stamp and coin collecting as a child didn't light my adult fire. I really didn't have any typical hobbies as a child. As a youngster I did enjoy looking at large model train layouts, but never really had the money or skills to pursue it as a hobby.
Through a chance visit to a local radio station in Cambridge, Ohio at age 12, I became fascinated by radio. From that point on broadcasting became my focus for the next 40 years. I put together little radio studios in our attic and "broadcast" to speakers in other rooms of our house. I built a radio station in a tool shed in the backyard when I was 15 and spent countless hours pretending to be a DJ.
Finally, Something To Get Excited About
That radio fascination did lead me to my first real interest a few years after retirement: ham radio. Very different from broadcasting, amateur radio is primarily attractive to those with a strong technical and electronics background. Most ham radio operators can build a transmitter from scratch, construct large antennas on their roof, or fix virtually anything electronic. I can rewire a lamp but that's about it.
I did discover that there are amateur operators who are primarily interested in simply talking with others all over the world. Many hams are very active in emergency communications after natural disasters. Others simply enjoy the social aspects of getting together with other people who enjoy the hobby. So, I studied what I needed to know to get my federal license, joined a ham club, and found a passion that became a driving force in my life for several years.
Eventually, for various reasons, that interest began to fade. It was replaced by a giant leap out of my comfort zone and background: volunteer work in prison ministry. Going into a prison the first time was terrifying. I was exposed to an environment I had only seen on TV or in movies. But, what I found were men who were trying to turn their lives around and simply looking for someone to care enough to be there with them. If you'd like to read more about my prison ministry experiences the posts, Pushing Back Against the Box and Prison Ministry: What does it accomplish, might be worth your time.
I'm afraid I can't provide you with any "secret" tips to help you discover your driving passion, the thing that will make your retirement truly satisfying. Ham radio became a part of my life because a friend was deeply involved and invited me to learn more about it. Prison ministry happened because my pastor asked me to write letters to some men in prison who were looking for pen pals. That quickly developed into a much more active involvement that continues to be part of my life. I stumbled into blogging three years ago simply as an outlet for my need to write. Last year, my wife and I made the plunge into RV travel and found something that is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives.
What will I be doing in another few years? I have no idea. It will probably be something different from what I am doing now. I could not have predicted any of the interests that have helped shape my retirement. Each was something new for me. Each required me to learn a new set of skills or allow a hidden part of my personality to surface. Each happened because of some external stimulus that came when I was receptive to a change.
Maybe that is the overriding lesson: be open to things that may seem wrong for you, out of your comfort zone, or simply alien to your experience. Is it simply serendipity, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it?
Sounds right to me.