Working 9 to 5

Apr 9, 2016 by

Working 9 to 5

Have you seen the film 9 to 5 ? A hilarious comedy from 1980, the movie features Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton: three women who find themselves stuck in day jobs, putting up with the daily grind of working 9 to 5. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot all those years I spent working 9 to 5 and punching a time clock. I officially ‘punched out’ on Dec. 31, 2015 when I retired from my ‘day job’ as resident staff writer at a beautiful Northern Michigan castle. Saying goodbye to the castle wasn’t easy, but I wanted to be able to spend more time with my husband (he retired years ago). Plus I wanted to travel, spend more time with our daughter and grandchildren out west, and… oh yes! More time to write all those stories tumbling around in my head. When I punched out on New Year’s Eve, I thought the hard part of my life was over.



But a funny thing happened on my way to blissful retirement. Much to my surprise, being ‘retired’ isn’t as easy as I thought. My first error: throwing away the Alarm Clockalarm clock. I chucked it in the garbage to celebrate all the free time I would finally have. Within two weeks, I realized I’d made a BIG MISTAKE. Turns out, even when you’re retired, you DO need an alarm clock (think about the occasional early a.m. doctor appointments, plus the 3 am wake-up calls so you can make it to the airport in time). By January 31, I’d had to purchase a new alarm clock. Boy, did I feel dumb over that one.


It should have come as no surprise that I needed an alarm clock. I’ve always been a very structured person. Growing up, my life centered around school and summer vacation. Monday – Friday, that was the routine, especially since my mom was a teacher. On weekends, I gave myself permission to ‘let it all hang out’ and have fun. After all, when you’re busy five days a week, you need some decompression time, right? But once I graduated from college, things changed dramatically. Suddenly my life was reduced to working 9 to 5, five days a week, 50 weeks per year. Gone were the carefree months of summer vacation. Within a few years, not only was I punching a time clock Monday – Friday, I was also married, with a husband, baby, and a house. Out of sheer necessity, super-structure became my daily routine. I eventually settled on getting up at 5 am every morning (including weekends). It wasn’t that hard getting out of bed while everyone else still slept. I’ve always been a morning person and at my most creative in the wee early hours of the day. Rising at 5 am allowed me 2-4 blissful hours of ‘alone-time’ in front of the computer: writing a blog (such as you’re reading now), working on a new book, or editing a manuscript I’d just finished. The only time I gave myself permission to deviate from the routine of my highly-structured life was during family vacations. I never realized how stressed I was. But in a strange way, I also thrived on it.




Fast forward to Jan. 1, 2016. Guess what happens when you retire? There’s no longer any time clock. You can get up when you want. You can stay in bed till 11 am. You can write a book in your pajamas (no, I haven’t resorted to that yet; I work better fully clothed). But the point is, I can if I want to… which is exactly the thing about retirement that’s driving me crazy.


Rule BookTHERE ARE NO RULES. You can do what you want.


And for a person who’s always lived by the rules, to suddenly have the rule book tossed out is a bit disconcerting.


My daily routine is gone. I need to find a new one.


People have told me it takes about one year to ‘transition’ into the mindset of retirement. One year = 12 months. I’m currently in month 4. I’m feeling my way through this. It’s taking awhile. I still get up early (though my ‘internal alarm clock’ now goes off at 6 am, rather than 5). And mornings still find me at my most creative. Afternoons are spent reading, hanging out at our local library, catching up with ‘retired’ friends, and doing volunteer work. And I love watching movies. Suspense, romantic comedies, plus classic films from the 30’s and 40’s. “Try to relax,” people tell me. “Calm down,” my husband says. “You’re being too hard on yourself. It will all work out.”




I’m trying. I’m really trying to get this whole ‘retirement-thing’ down. But for a person like me, someone used to a life that’s super-structured, having 24 hours of ‘whatever you want to do‘ stretching out in front of me is a downright scary proposition. And I’ll be honest: some days still find me all messed up. I’m home in my office, intending to write; then the phone rings, and I’m off on a tangent. Suddenly, all my good intentions of putting in a full morning of working on my new book have disappeared. Somehow the day drifts by, and night falls. Wait a minute! How did this happen? I’ve lost my direction again. Urgh! Sometimes I think it would be better to still be working that day job. At least I’d have a routine that didn’t alter; I’d be back to my super-structured life. Talk about ironic. I never thought I’d miss it so much.



Don’t get me wrong. Retirement isn’t all bad. On a bitter cold day, I love being able to choose when and if I’m going outside. I love having the freedom of being able to figure out if I want to spend an extra hour reading that fantastic new book I just downloaded on my Kindle. I love being able to indulge in an road mapafternoon nap. But I wish I had some structure back. And for those of you still working 9-5, I’ll leave you with this one thought: next time you punch a time clock, remember how much I’m struggling. Being retired isn’t as easy as you think. Be glad you have a schedule in your life. At least you know where you’re headed next. As for me? I’m still trying to figure out which direction to head on that confusing road map called ‘Retirement’.

1 Comment

  1. Janine K

    What an honest post Kathleen. I know on my two days off work each week I do one of two things, either cram all medical, hair, lunching appointments into one of the days, or else once I get my daughter off to her day service I then have breakfast and try to catch up on some recorded shows eventually getting in the shower and dressing, thinking about what to have for dinner and shopping for that. Then I wonder where the day has gone as she arrives home at 3.30pm, the biggest time waster is getting on that computer – just to check email – not, you get distracted checking Facebook and other websites etc etc. even my husband tells me off and says just relax and read, but I seldom do that, which makes me mad with myself.

    I have patrons coming into work at the Library checking out a huge pile of books and I am so jealous of them, they say don’t worry dear you will have time when you retire to read Other people don’t know how they had time to work once they retire as they get involved in other worthwhile things.

    They say you should always leave a few small jobs for your retirement, I have heaps of them, including getting back to scrap booking, sorting out all our photos and digitising them (I bought a scanner last year for that, and haven’t started yet), and of course reading more, maybe rejoining a new book club as I will have so much more time – probably not.

    I agree that it will take time to get sorted, and my husband should retire a couple of years before me, so he can adjust to retirement and get involved in some male oriented activities and continue his volunteer work and start some new volunteer work. This will be good as I think we would get in one another’s way initially. Oh and I’ve told him that he can take on some cooking too. Big adjustments ahead for all of us. Good luck Kathleen, I’m sure you will get organised into your new routine eventually