Around about the time you’re reading this, I will have clocked up one full year of semi-retirement.
And what a year it was. For all intents and purposes, I was semi-retired for 2021. I had a couple of weeks of leave in the early weeks of the year (still employed but not at work), but for the most part, in 2021 I was not employed full-time.
The year was not perfect. The year was not without challenges. COVID and lockdowns certainly don’t care that you’re hoping to enjoy your semi-retirement. All of my problems did not go away.
But it was a fantastic year and semi-retirement is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (second only to my decision to text Poopsie one night back in December 2014… the rest is history).
I took the first six months of the year to rest and recharge. Taking six months off without any work commitments was great. Most people do not get that opportunity before they retire, except possibly women taking maternity leave which I certainly would not describe as time off. Some days I did nothing except read or watch a show I’d been bingeing. Other days, I did job interviews, professional and personal development courses and spent time with friends. There really weren’t very many days that looked alike. I did have to force myself to not follow a strict schedule as that was my natural preference. There is nothing wrong with schedules, but my intent for these six months was not to be productive. It was to just be.
I mostly achieved that.
Mid-year I did a professional development course for a qualification I have wanted to obtain for a long time. I’m hoping that will lead to some interesting opportunities (definitely unpaid and maybe one day paid) in the future. After this, I commenced contract work with my former employer. I averaged 2-3 days of work most weeks, sometimes a little less and during Canberra’s lockdown, more. Poopsie was home working as well, so I thought I may as well be working. I don’t regret doing that, but I definitely didn’t enjoy doing so many days of work each week, especially after such a long break.
In the first half of the year, Poopsie and I did some local travel, mostly with our nephews. The second half of the year we had travel planned to Queensland, the snow and Sydney, but we had to cancel all of that due to lockdowns. I definitely thought I would take advantage of my lack of job more during the year but COVID made that a bit impossible. Plus, I prefer to spend my time with Poopsie and he is obviously limited in when he can travel with working full time. It doesn’t look like the situation will change much in 2022, so I again expect there to not be too much travel for me.
In late 2021, I caught up with an old work friend. She told me that I seemed a lot happier than she had ever seen me (we have known each other for almost fifteen years). I think this is definitely true. I am certainly less stressed than I have ever been in my life. While there were a few stressful events and periods during the year, these did not last for very long and I was able to easily manage them. Contrast this to work stress, particularly in 2020 – it never went away and I was not very good at managing it.
I am a pretty uptight person but in 2021, I relaxed a lot more. My feelings about money and spending relaxed a lot (more on this in a future post), as did my perfectionism. It’s certainly still there, but there is now a lot less to apply it to so I found it a lot easier to manage (or ignore).
I don’t miss working full time at all. I never really thought I would so this isn’t really a surprise. The year did not make me any less productive though, and I still got plenty done. I would occasionally even have a To Do list just to make sure I didn’t miss anything I wanted to get done. My desire to make money was just one of obligation, not actually something I was very interested in doing.
Reading that back, it wasn’t a very exciting year. And I have noticed when some people I know have asked “how’s retirement” or “what have you been doing” I have been a bit embarrassed for my lack of exciting things to report. Surely, with all the time in the world, I should be doing all these amazing things? That’s just not my reality right now and I’ve learned to be more okay with that. I’m not saying I won’t ever do exciting things but, this is real life, and if keeping the house tidy, doing the grocery shopping and reading a good book are the only things I achieve in a day, I’d say that’s still a pretty good day.
When I discovered the FIRE movement back in my early 20s, I knew it was life changing. I knew that it would change the direction of my life and that one day, I would enjoy a lot more freedom and time. I’ve now reached that point – at least in the semi-retired sense.
And it’s great. It really is just as good as I thought it would be. I like myself a lot more (relaxed me is way better than uptight me), I’m less stressed, I’m more curious about the world and I’m more content with the day to day.
And if that’s the only thing to come out of the basket case that was 2021, then I’m also one of the luckiest people around. And I am so, so grateful for that.