MonthSeptember 2017

May I Help You?

I wrote the first pass of this piece a week before hurricane Irma was on the radar. Since then we have been in hurricane prep mode. We live in a community with many older residents. Making sure that they were safe and helping them prepare was a priority. Making sure we had the resources to help them after the storm was also part of the preparation. The hardest part of the prep was dealing with the fear of living through the worst storm ever recorded. The mantra of “fear the worst and hope for the best” led us to some very dark places. We were lucky. For those that weren’t, our prayers go out to you.

Since I retired, the concept of purpose has been a struggle for me. With the potential of living another 30+ years, I don’t feel that just taking as much as I can will leave me feeling good about the time I have left. To find my future purpose I ultimately ended up looking back and found a little light for the path forward. Many of us live our lives in pursuit of the question, “May I help you?”

If you think about what we do on a day to day basis, the question of “May I Help You?” is a fundamental component of our existence. For most, our jobs focus on helping someone else either directly or indirectly. We have a spouse, children, parents or friends that depend on our helping them daily. We also have those that we depend on for help as part of the daily give and take in our lives. In retirement, that interaction doesn’t change except for the money part. We no longer get paid for asking “May I Help You?”

In looking back over the last year of retirement, the desire to help has not diminished. My children still reach out for guidance. Neighbors still need assistance with the daily annoyances that they can’t deal with themselves. The world remains a place where there are many in need and not enough of us to help them all. History has taught us that in periods of selfishness like the Dark Ages, the world is a difficult place for all, but the sharing of the Renaissance brought a bounty to many.

Making a contribution to the community is an important part of our everyday lives. As retirees, we have lots of experience and life lessons to draw on. Underneath that somewhat tired looking wrapper lives the heart and soul of someone who still asks “May I Help You?”

Having Fun and Learning new skills

Having fun at every stage in our lives is important.  We need to focus our attention on things that make us feel happy and excited. Whether it’s our job, our education, our family activities or our extracurricular activities. If we don’t do things that we find enjoyable and interesting, then it’s hard to put our best effort into it. Retirement is a time for us to explore new opportunities to find those fun and exciting new activities and renew old passions.

I know this picture would lead one to believe that I have taken up alligator wrestling as a new retirement activity. It’s really a casting of an alligator that we found at the Mote Aquarium. Being new to Sarasota, we have done a lot of exploring so that we really get to know the area well. The area is rich in opportunities for studying nature both in venues like the Mote and in the many natural parks that are prevalent in the county. I’ve dabbled in kayaking and have a renewed interest in fishing as a result of our activities. My wife and I have done a lot of hiking and found it a great way to explore and connect with each other.

One of my major concerns when I was thinking about retirement was how do I spend the time and not feel bored.   It’s really up to each of us to answer that question because we know what’s fun and exciting for us. The challenge is to put the effort into finding those things that don’t just fill our days, but reignite the zest for life. The world offers many opportunities for us to enjoy life and make a contribution to our friends and neighbors. We need to look inside ourselves to find those opportunities that will fill us with joy. For many of us our job filled the day and limited our ability to explore that aspect of ourselves. If we embrace the challenge it can lead to some of the best times of our lives. Don’t let fear of the unknown deprive you of the opportunity of a lifetime.