Written by: SUSAN VALENTINE
I have lived on my rock for 15 of the 24 months that I have been retired. Who knew there could be so much craziness in the “golden years”? Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1) Retirement on a rock is not like vacationing on a rock.
When you are on vacation and you are someone who loves to explore, you spend every precious moment on the go. Beaches, bars, restaurants, sandy bays, and offshore cays. The days melt into each other and before you know it, you are back at your desk planning your next vacation. Not so in retirement. The Stay Busy mantra playing in my head is in direct conflict with the retirement mantra It’s good to do nothing, and then to rest. As I was never very good at entertaining myself but always a good follower for any unlikely adventure, I’ve depended on my partner to entertain me. But when he runs out of ideas that interest me, I resort to cooking, baking bread, reading, writing newsletters to friends in the US, crafting with shells, and beach-combing. Learning to “lime” and “chill” continue to be a work in progress for me, made easier when drinks are involved.
2) Retirement is a whole other set of financial circumstances.
Living in a vacation paradise on a retirement budget is also not like being on vacation. On vacation, you allow yourself 2-3 weeks of free-wheeling spending and indulging. In retirement, money is limited to small pensions, social security, and, if you were wise and lucky enough, you took advantage of employer-sponsored retirement plans. The only thing is, that money is supposed to last for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (TROYL)! I’ve always been a saver and my partner has always been a spender. One must strike a balance between maintaining money for TROYL and engaging in some self-indulgent behavior without leaving too much for the next generation. Spend it while you have it may become my new mantra.
3) You will discover things about your retirement partner that you never expected.
Even if you have spent a lifetime with your partner and you know each other inside out, I promise you, you will discover things about him/her that you either unconsciously ignored while you both worked, or he/she has adopted some new irritating behaviors in retirement. My biggest gift and my worst fault are the same: I am extremely detail-oriented. I miss nothing – from a tiny speck of dust on the floor, to the glaringly obvious (to me) detail of a story told (not by me) that may have included a small exaggeration of an event. The way he “remembers” it to my “factually” remembered version are often hotly debated, especially after a few glasses of wine. Be prepared to take it in stride. Fix yourself a drink, take a walk on the beach, put a shell in your pocket and your toes in the sand. Then go back home, kiss your beloved, smile, and know that, once again, all is well in your wonderful, wonderful world.
4) Your retirement partner will be your best friend on the rock.
Don’t think you can just make new retirement “besties” to confide your secret musings or relationship trials and tribulations to on a rock where most of the people don’t get your sense of humor or share your life experiences or if they speak in some version of “Island English” that you can’t even understand (yet). You will certainly make good friends on the rock, but remember that an island is like a small town anywhere. Everybody knows everybody and is probably related to them as well. News travels fast on the “Coconut Telegraph”.
5) Retired or not, drinking is a normal daily pastime.
In the US, there is a certain stigma attached to drinking before “cocktail hour”, which is probably where the expression It’s 5 o’clock somewhere came from. Nobody wants to be known for drinking before the appointed hour. But on the rock, people drink at all hours. Sometimes it is a pleasant way to spend a day in that blurry fog of disembodiment from the continuous beauty of our surroundings. For me, it always brings to mind a lyric from Pink Floyd’s Brain Damage: “…there’s someone in my head, but it’s not me“. Having a local hang out bar is essential for making friends, passing the time, and enjoying the camaraderie that only alcohol can produce, without the worry associated with “What will the neighbors think?” In the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman: “What, me worry?”
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If you’ve had the good fortune to retire on a rock, what island retirement lessons have you learned?