Tuesday, February 25, 2014

What This Newly Retired Baby Boomer has Learned from Figure Skating

Retirement can be a big shock for the newly retired, especially if you have worked your whole life.

It's an irony that something we look forward to for much of our working life could end up a disappointment, or worse, a regret.

If I am honest, since I walked out of my office for the last time eight months ago, it's been a roller coaster ride as I navigate the changes to my life.

One of my interests is figure skating, so naturally I watched the Olympic competition. 

As I watched, I realized there are some parallels in the quest for Olympic gold and the quest for a satisfying Golden Years.

Exercise keeps you thin

It's important to keep moving.
Though I have learned that exercise alone does not stave off fat, I will ask: 
Have you ever seen a fat figure skater?

Keep up the bling

In retirement, it's easy to wear sweats all of the time, go without makeup and look like crap.

Figure skaters are notorious for their sparkly, and sometimes crazy outfits (do you hear me, ice dancers?)

But they need to wear sparkly costumes to call attention to their identity out there on the ice and to illustrate their programs.

We might not want to go so far as some of the ice dancers, but we retirees need to also retain our identities and, hey, why not call attention to ourselves? 

Women of a certain age seem to become invisible around 50.  We must put an end to that!


I must admit I succumb from time to time to the "looking like crap" scenario while at home (poor Hubby), but my identity has always been the glam librarian clothes horse, so why stop now?  Though, finances preclude the "clothes horse" part, I still am interested in fashion, wear makeup and fix my hair (most days).
And watch out when I go out to a concert or the theatre!


Not only do figure skaters have to be patient as they learn how to jump higher, better and with more revolutions, they also need to exercise patience during their competitions.  As a male skater prepares for his quad, the most difficult jump in figure skating (four revolutions in the air), you see him set his course so he doesn't hit the boards, put his toe pick into the ice, launch himself and check himself on the way down. If he rushes the steps, he will fall.


Retirement is the same, I think. 

I am absolutely astonished that after eight months, I am still struggling with the feelings I have about not working anymore.  I think this new part of my life is my "quad."  I need to be patient. I shouldn't be hard on myself when I fail.  I had some good advice from some other retired people - that it takes time and I need to try different things until I find a good fit.

I need to keep working on my quad: set myself a course, put my toe pick in the ice and launch myself and keep doing that until it works.

If you screw up, it's not the end of the world

In figure skating, it's possible to fall down and still win, especially in the long program.  It's all about the points.  Yes, you get a deduction for falling down, but if you get up and keep doing your best, you can still win.

So too in retirement. 

I started out with guns blazing.  I had my days all spelled out in lists.  Monday is blog day, Tuesday is "work out like a maniac" day, Wednesday, Project Day, etc.  I was going to take Zumba and horse-back riding lessons.  I was going to meditate every day, lose 30 pounds and save the world.

Well, you know that old saying, "The best laid plans...?"  Life and your mental state have a way of wreaking havoc on one's plans.  Stuff happens. 

I didn't get involved in everything I thought I would.  Getting to a 10am Zumba class even started being a burden.  I don't even get up until then sometimes. Some days I meditate, some days I don't.  I had some bad days.  I didn't accomplish much. And I felt like I was failing my "long program" - retirement.

But as that great sage of baseball, Yogi Berra, said, "It ain't over 'til it's over." 
I am working on the Zumba moves at home.  I meditate most days and hey, I never even used to do it at all before.  And I am working with a volunteer group, which I have never done before either.

I will keep trying things.  Maybe I will save the world after all.

If I fall, I get up and give myself some points. It's all about the points.

Change is good

Speaking of points, those of us of a certain age remember when the figure skating ranking system was the 6.0 system - skaters were ranked from 1-6 - which ultimately led to too much subjectivity on the part of the judges as per the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal, where the Canadian pair skaters clearly skated a better long program than the Russian skaters, but received the Silver Medal.  There was such an outcry that the Canadians were also given a Gold Medal, which in turn led to the new ISU Judging System, a point system that is considered less subjective. 

However, even that new system has led to controversy in this year's Olympic women's figure skating competition where the favorite, Kim Yuna of Korea, the 2010 Olympic champion, lost to the Russian skater Adelina Sotnikova.  Yuna Kim skated a perfect program, Sotnikova did not.

The skaters all had to adjust to this new scoring system.  They had to add finesse and difficulty to their programs in order to gain the maximum points.  This has not been as difficult for the younger skaters.  But the skaters who were used to the old system had problems adjusting.

Likewise, in life, change is never easy, especially for those of us used to the "old system."  Try to get your husband to sleep on a different side of the bed! 

Retirement is one great big change. But as in figure skating, change can be good and it can challenge you to not only succeed but to exceed yourself. 

That is what I am hoping for.


Figure skaters have expressed the sense of freedom they feel speeding across the ice or launching themselves in the air and spinning three or four times.

Retirement is like that too.  No more deadlines, no more bosses, no more doing what you don't want to do.  But it's a "be careful what you wish for" story as well.  Same as the figure skater needing the discipline to attain the jumps and spins, in retirement, discipline is needed to experience the riches of freedom.  It's not easy to jump and spin on figure skates; it's not easy to be disciplined when completely free.

You don't want to live the lyrics "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Age and Experience Count for Something

Finally, I think it's easy to start feeling sorry for yourself when you age. 

It's no fun getting grey hair (unless you look good with grey hair), creaky bones, doctor bills, wrinkles, a turkey neck, age spots, or your grandkids tell you you smell.  I'm not so good at Twitter and forget about Vine.

The figure skating world was counting on 15-year-old Russian skater, Julia Lipnitskaya to win the gold, but she cracked under the pressure and came in 5th.  Veteran Mao Asada, also a favorite, had a disastrous short program ending up in 16th, but in the long program she came from 16th to finish 6th. And 23-year-old Kim Yuna, who came in second, skated impeccable programs and probably should have won the gold.  Even though the gold medal winner, Sotnikova is only 18, figure skating years are like dog years. She's been around awhile and 18 is actually 28 in skating years!  So the veterans reigned.

My point is this:  I may have wrinkles and creaky bones and am terrible at Twitter, but I've earned those wrinkles and creaky bones.  The fact that I am still here counts for something, and in those 65 years, I've learned a few things. 

Whether anyone else knows that is beside the point.

I know it.

I may not have my retirement quad or even my triple-triple yet, but I'm working on it.  And Twitter.

Now on to the World Championships.

See you Friday for
 "How to Throw a Killer Oscar Party"
The Week in Reviews

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  1. If your gym offers it, I recommend trying out Aqua Zumba...way easier on the joints, and just as fun music!

    1. Aqua Zumba. Wow. Sounds intriguing! Thanks for the tip. Rosy

  2. It sounds like you are making progress on your 'new' life. :-)

    It took me a good two years to really sink roots into my post-working life. I tried lots of new things in year one, and some took, while others, not feeling quite right, did not. Almost without exception, each new thing led to one or more other possibilities however, so trust the process and keep going. My life now, just shy of three years post-working, is absolutely fabulous, divided as it is between me-time, physical activity, travel, intellectual pursuits and volunteering that are all, to me at least, engrossing and satisfying.

    The biggest difference between your path and mine I think, is that I was completely over my job, while it sounds like you were not. Have you given thought to offering to work as a volunteer in a different library in your community? That might feed you in a way you still need.

    As an example on my side, I loved working with technology in my prior life, and I also enjoyed instructing, so I recently wormed my way onto the Computer Committee at our Lifelong Learning program. I'm now attending very interesting monthly IT meetings, plus teaching adult learners how to operate their computers for 8 sessions over four weeks two times a year (spring and fall). It's the perfect 'sized' commitment at this point in my retirement, but it took trying out several other volunteer opportunities before finding the right one.

    1. Yes, Tamara. Things are getting better. You were right about trying new things and incorporating the things that work into this new life and discarding the things that don't. I am trying to say "yes" to things, even if it's something I wouldn't usually do. I'm not sure if I was over my job or not when I retired. I think I was but now my greatest concern is financial as my husband's income waxes and wanes. When it wanes, I think, gee, I walked away from a perfectly good job. But I don't really miss the job itself. Speaking of computer classes, I taught classes in my old job and may be teaching them again at the senior center. That would keep me busy and I enjoy teaching.

  3. Hi Rosy,
    Yes, it does take some getting used to, this new lifestyle. I'm now volunteering a bit, painting a bit, exercising three times a week, seeing friends when possible, and planning to do some travelling also. Still finding the right balance two years in. And I still like to get dressed up and made-up everyday. It's a form of self-expression. It's one of the things I really used to like doing when I was working, so why would I change?

    1. Thanks, Caroline. It helps to know it takes awhile to get used to this new phase of life. Your life sounds a bit like mine. I get to the gym three times a week, volunteer and continue to try to look good. I am hoping that in two years time I will be settled in! :) Rosy