I’ve lost my sense of purpose

I always thought my retirement was going to be the best time of my life. After working for nearly 50
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I always thought my retirement was going to be the best time of my life. After working for nearly 50 years and raising three kids, I was looking forward to a well-earned break and enjoying all the little things I’d missed out on over the years.

I worked as a nurse for 35 years and when that last day finally came I was both relieved and happy. I couldn’t manage being on my feet for eight hours a day anymore and I was tired of the rat race and dealing with all the politics that come along with every work place.

My colleagues threw me a lovely farewell morning tea and waved me off into my new life. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to really start living.

The first couple of months were great, but honestly, since then I’ve really struggled to find my place.

My ex-husband and I divorced years ago so it’s just me at home every day and I’m one of the only people in my friendship group who’s retired so I don’t get to see them too much.

Thankfully two out of my three kids live near-by, but they’ve got their own lives and like most parents I don’t want them to feel like they have to spend every spare moment with me – I would have gone crazy if my mother did that to me when I was younger!

I know people say starting a hobby is a great way to use your time, but I’m not interested in arts and crafts or things like that.

Really, I just feel like I’ve lost my whole sense of purpose. I’ve always been a wife or a mother or a nurse and now all of those things have changed or disappeared completely.

How do people do this? Is there some magic formula to being content in your retirement? I never thought that entering this phase in my life would mean reassessing who I am and what my purpose is on this earth.

I don’t remember my father struggling like this when he finally stopped working in his late-sixties, but maybe he did and I just never thought to ask him.

There are lots of wonderful things about my life and I’m definitely grateful for all that I have, but I don’t think retirees should have to hang up their will to live along with their work boots!

For me, I’m thinking the way around this might be to start volunteering somewhere a couple of days a week. Whether it’s working at a Salvation Army clothes store or delivering Meals on Wheels, I think a good dose of hard work for a few hours a week would make all the difference.

I’m starting to wonder if retiring is less about giving up work all together and more about cutting back and moving into something new to keep you motivated.

Am I crazy or does anyone else feel this way?

Do you have any advice for this reader? Have you been through a similar experience?

  1. John Reid  

    There are many ways to enjoy life after retirement. Friends of mine – and I’m speaking of the fairer sex – have joined a number of different groups or organisations. Among the best, from the viewpoint of three different friends, are the local Lions Club , a readers and writers group at the local library and the Red Hatters. They are poles apart in scope and in what they represent but all provide great enjoyment to those involved. None might suit the particular writer but every town and ever city has a number of groups available, and that’s on top of sometimes sole occupations like painting, photography, etc.

  2. Melanie  

    I retired three years’ ago, two years’ before I’d planned to, but had just reached a point of ‘enough’.
    Happy in my own company.
    Go out with friends’ to movies’, ‘ladies’ who lunch’, & Dinner, which I thoroughly enjoy.
    Have 1yo grand-child.
    Thoroughly enjoy doing the things I wasn’t able to do, whilst working full time, & O/T.

    Am a Member of Local Clubs, where I’m happy to dine, for a reasonable price. I sit alone, & am happy just watching the world go by, relaxing there, in the company of other humans’.

    Am a Member of a Military Club, where I’m able to meet my Army friends’ on a regular basis, for meals, & various Social Events organised by said Club.

    Attend the Theatre regularly, as I’ve a broad-range of Arts, in which I’ve been interested all my life.
    I read constantly, various books’ genre. I ‘hobby study’ multiple Subjects’ on DVD, from ‘The Great Courses’, which keeps the ‘little grey cells’ active.

    My exercise loves’ are Walking, Tennis, & Swimming, with the occasional horse-ride, as well.
    Love watching my fave tv programmes, & DVD’s.

    Looking back, I’m SO pleased I did Retire, at that point in time! It’s given me an extra two years’ to enjoy!
    I’m very busy, BUT, it’s a different type of ‘busy’, & it’s doing things I WANT to do, with no time constraints! Yay!

  3. Beth  

    I read this and wondered if it was written about my life at the moment. May I ask if the writer is in Brisbane?

    • Kerrie Bloxsom  

      My thoughts exactly! If one more person tells me to volunteer for something I’ll scream! I’ve done that but didn’t find it fulfilling. I hurt my back so I can’t even go for walks anymore. To quote Cher ‘getting old ‘sucks’!

    • Barbara Bishop  

      I agree totally …. this could be me also.

    • Tupps  

      This piece has described my life. I don’t have a circle of retired friends, most of my friends were work friends no commonalities of interest outside of work. I’m not a “joiner” and find it hard to socialise into club activities. Not shy, just spent my life taking care of others, (also a nurse) knowing what to do, directing traffic. Adult kids with their families all live interstate, so spending time with those I love, becomes a timetable of travel, arrive and departure dates. I’m not a part of their daily lives. I actually think week by week, month by month, that I am becoming depressed and losing the impetus to get moving, set a goal, find something to feel joy again. Starting to wonder why bother.

    • Liz  

      Oh my goodness, sounds like me. I’m about to retire the only single one in my group & miss the company of a man. Looking for a travel companion as wee. Already volunteering & love that. Hope it will all be ok

  4. Dawn  

    I to felt like this after a year or two of retirement….as most of my friends are younger…I still swim, kayak and bike ride mon,wed, fri….but it’s quite lonesome…so I volunteer at the hospital ..meeting and greeting people…and we have social outings as well…I read and sew and garden…but miss socialising….think I will look for more volunteering work so I feel more valued and not so isolated…this has certainly helped me…good luck in your search for contentment…

  5. Yvonne charter  

    I know exactly how you feel. retired March last year and I have two children, each in a different state to me and each other! To top it off only moved here a few years ago so no real connection with community. Everyday is a struggle!

    • Bette  

      Hi Yvonne,
      Your letter resonated with me. I retired early to nurse my hubby who died of cancer. I met a wonderful lady and we became best friends. My life was good. Then she remarried and he pushed us apart. I met a wonderful man and we fell in love. He wanted to move closer to his family and as my girls lived in different states, I agreed to move with him…. Now I feel lost . My health has deteriorated after breaking my hip and I spend most weeks doing the rounds of doctors, specialists etc. His family are distant to me as I feel they resent me being in dad’s life. No friends of my own although some aquaintances from the darts club he attends… None I feel my friends( different stage of life). My health issues make it difficult as I can no longer drive. My darling is very good to me and has become my career but I miss my family and need some friends with similar interests.

  6. Sue Musry  

    I think that retirement is indeed all about reassessing who you are. It is similar to moving countries or just states, and it takes a bit of adjustment. One needs to reinvent oneself, as all the familiar daily routines are stripped away, and also the people that you are used to seeing on a daily basis, are no longer there.

    I deliberately retired when I felt I was still able to create a new life. As I am a routine sort of person this included building up new routines to make me feel comfortable. I took up Bridge, which I would heartily recommend. This has provided my brain with a new stimulus, and a whole new group of friends. I also volunteer and I think this is most important. There are a million opportunities to volunteer out there. It is not just visiting the elderly, it can range from weeding a group garden to putting on a show! Plenty to do.

    Good luck with your new life —– it provides you finally with the freedom that you didn’t have before. Enjoy it!

    • Animate  

      I am so sick of hearing ‘volunteering’ as the answer. Really what you are saying is go back to work for no pay.

  7. Pat ward  

    I found myself in the same position as you, friends were still working. Checked with the local council as to what groups were available. Tried several before I found one I liked..Also checked out the numerous volunteer groups. I have grandchildren and volunteer once a fortnight the kids love it and so do I. Did take quite sometime before I felt that sense of purpose again. Book a holiday for someting to look forward to. Hope this helps

  8. Kelly  

    The received wisdom is that women find it easier to retire than men because we have a greater range of things in our life. However I think that depends on how you organised your work life. I am about to retire after going through a transition to retirement process or cutting down the number of days I work.
    I think the thing about retirement is that it could be the first stage of your life where you have the resources to do something for yourself and that can be scary. a few years ago I read an article here about a woman who retired and then needed to find places for socialising and exercising – things that had previously occurred during the work days. She undertook volunteer work and joined a gym. With volunteering you may have to try a variety of things to get one you like? I am planning on joining Curves as a friend goes there and we can encourage each other.(because exercise is not my thing). What about undertaking a course? I’ve heard that University of the Third Age have interesting things. Also your local community college or TAFE? Was there something you loved to do before work and family took over your life? I hope you are successful.

  9. Joye Power  

    I hear you! I finished work due to a physical injury. 6 months of medical appointment and some surgery and I was up and raring to go! But where? most of my close friends are younger than me and they are still working. Went To my local pool and joined the over 50s group. They have water activities, walking group, gym sessions and social activities. I felt I couldn’t go there everyday of the week so I got myself a puppy! Best thing that has ever happened to me! We walk twice a day and I try to go somewhere different each day. I live Near the coast where they have Dog Beaches and lots of dog friendly walks. I also enjoy walking in my neighbourhood. I have met lots of lovely doggie people and others that have been my neighbours for years but going off to work each day I never got to meet them! Open your eyes and your mind and you might need to go outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there but I am sure you will find your niche! I also went back to work on a casual basis as an on call so you never know what each day might bring!

  10. Joye Power  

    I hear you! I finished work due to a physical injury. 6 months of medical appointment and some surgery and I was up and raring to go! But where? most of my close friends are younger than me and they are still working. Went To my local pool and joined the over 50s group. They have water activities, walking group, gym sessions and social activities. I felt I couldn’t go there everyday of the week so I got myself a puppy! Best thing that has ever happened to me! We walk twice a day and I try to go somewhere different each day. I live Near the coast where they have Dog Beaches and lots of dog friendly walks. I also enjoy walking in my neighbourhood. I have met lots of lovely doggie people and others that have been my neighbours for years but going off to work each day I never got to meet them! Open your eyes and your mind and you might need to go outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there but I am sure you will find your niche! I also went back to work on a casual basis as an on call so you never know what each day might bring!

  11. Ed  

    Retirement sucks and the writer sums it up well. I retired at 66+ after being a executive work alcoholic doing long hours a lot more than 40. My children and my wife (separated years ago) are interstate. I moved to a new state a few years ago before retiring and have not built a circle of friends – in fact unless my children visit from interstate I have not had a visitor in years. I worked for a charity and have seen the waste (my employer was regarded as a extremely well run charity, but still lots of waste) and I cannot bring myself to volunteer for a charity. I have taken up a gentle sport BUT it still does not fill the void. It is a very lonely existence, with a lunch every 4 months or so with ex work colleagues. After 4 years I am yet to find a answer

  12. te  

    I retired 10 years ago with nothing my ex took all..but I moved to Brisbane for 5 years and worked part time..moved back to nsw and volunteered as a propagator in the landcare nursery last year I was forced to leave as they said I was getting too old..niw I grow plants etc I have my grand kids close.
    So all is okay..as you say living on your own is s bit of a bugger.my cat is no conservationist..be care ful who you volunteer for as your free labour could be fuelling someone’s lifestyle.

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