No doubt about it, retirement is a big change.  Whether we simply leave our job or completely change our whole lifestyle, it’s an event like no other.  Retirement gives us the freedom most of us haven’t enjoyed since we we’re kids.  We can now do what we want, when we want and how we want.  We are no longer bound by the conventions and expectations of bosses, clients and customers.  Our life is our own again.

A recurring theme among retirees is reinventing one’s self.  I suppose that means something different for everyone.  Some folks hardly change at all, others are hardly recognizable anymore.  Some make superficial changes, while others change their core beliefs and attitudes.  To me it means finally becoming who you want to be or maybe who you were meant to be.

Some folks find that kind of meaning in their working lives but I’m pretty sure most of us don’t.  The idealistic 17-year-old that decided on your career path is many times wrong.  We find our career doesn’t reveal our true selves or provide a meaningful existence.  We find ourselves striving to please others, becoming who they want us to be, working towards their goals and priorities.  In order to succeed we need become who they want us to be, not who we want to be.  Not too many folks succeed by taking afternoon naps and taking long vacations.

Work changes most of us and usually not for the better.  Even if you enjoyed your work, you’ve likely developed attitudes and habits that restrain you.  Whether it’s as simple as a schedule you needed to follow or a change in lifestyle you adopted to succeed in your career, work made you different.  Work became who you are, at least most of the time.

In retirement you can leave all that behind.  You can stay up late, sleep in, take long trips, get drunk in the middle of the day or rent dirty movies without worrying about running into you’re boss.  Not saying you should do those things, but you are able do whatever you want.  But that’s the rub.  What do you want?  Who do you want to be?  I bet you haven’t given it a lot of thought or maybe you still have no idea.

I liken it to being a kid in a candy store.  There is so much to choose from, so many options that its overwhelming.  You either go nuts wanting to try it all or you freeze up unable to make a decision.  It can take a while to settle down and sort things out.  I’ve been retired a year and I’m not completely settled in yet.  I’m still not totally sure what I want to do or who I want to be.

Like a lot of people, I’m working on it.  It could take months, years or the rest of my life to figure it all out.  But I do know sitting around waiting for my life to change isn’t going to do it.  You’ve got to actively seek out the new you and your new life.  It isn’t going to come knocking on your door, well not usually anyway.

Getting out and doing things is a good start, especially things that are outside your comfort zone.  If it’s scary, do it.  If its something your friends and family would never think you would do, or better yet might disapprove of, do it.  If you hate it fine, but what if you love it?  What if you find the new you while doing it?

Meeting new people is a good idea too.  Retiring and continuing to hang out with your work friends is fine, but you’re not likely to be exposed to new ideas.  Find ways to meet people and do it with an open mind.  It’s likely that you won’t find new close friends right away, but at least you will be exposed to new ideas and lifestyles.  You never know, you might find one that fits.

Travel is a great way to expand you’re horizons, as long as you get out and experience the places you visit.  If you only visit the touristy areas, you’re missing a lot.  This last year in Jamaica we explored a little beyond the resort (though we have made friends among and learned a lot from the Jamaicans that work at the resort).  I met an ex-pat American that webcasts local events.  We met the owners of a jerk shack.  It made us want to meet more locals and experience more Jamaican culture.

Lastly, moving can help provide the new perspective you need.  Lots of folks by a smaller home, many in a new community.  Some folks live in an RV and travel around.  That’s our plan.  Some move out of the city, others move into the city.  In any case, a change in venue seems to help people move on and find themselves.  To be honest, a lot of us live where we do because that’s where our job was.

Reinventing yourself and your life is a journey.  It’s really what life is all about and retirement gives us the freedom to pursue that journey.  No longer do we have excuses to put it off.  We can be who we want, live on our own terms.  Nobody to assess, review and approve of what we do but ourselves.  If we fail, it is through our own lack of effort.

In the end, that’s all reinventing yourself in retirement really is, in my opinion.  It’s not some grandiose transformation or some secret right of passage, it’s just freeing your mind from the shackles of your working life.  Its rearranging your priorities and seeking your own path.  Nothing more really than finally living life the way it was meant to be lived.  Living it for yourself.