by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
I started my career as a firefighter when I was 21 years old. I served 32 years and retired at age 54. I know that may sound too early, but 32 years was plenty since the municipality I served for carried a heavy run load.
It takes its toll on you mentally and physically because, believe it or not, firefighting is a high-performance job. When I finally severed employment, I was prepared and ready.
My cousin had retired about five years prior to me leaving, my brother about three years earlier. My cousin stated that for the first three months it is going to feel like a vacation, after six months of not having to report to duty is when it starts setting in that you are really retired. He would check up on me every now then to make sure I was doing OK.
The unique aspect about the fire service is that one-third of our lives are spent at the fire stations with our second family. When you’re retired, you need to fill that void with some sort of activity.
Many firefighters, after they retire, don’t know what to do with themselves and resort to less healthy habits such as alcohol, staying at home and becoming depressed, or resorting to other bad habits.
Remember, firefighters live, breathe, eat fire department on and off-duty. When we are actively employed, our social lives revolve around our fire department family. We attend training off-duty that involves fire-related knowledge, skills and abilities. We constantly need to take both practical and written exams to stay proficient and up to date. All this coming to a halt creates a big void in one’s life.
Some of us thrived on the action and excitement. This goes away when you retire. I would ask retirees what aspect of the job they missed the most. Believe it or not, they said they missed the station life and the people they worked with — basically, the camaraderie. I feel this is probably the same answer anyone would give, in any job.
At first, I wanted to take a hiatus from doing anything at all. I wanted to deflate and become a couch potato.
In the beginning I did miss the fire department, but after a while, I reflected on my experiences and kept saying to myself that I had a productive, satisfying, fulfilling career and felt good about what I had accomplished while I was there. I also got much gratification of being able to help others and train the next generation.
The two most important things I value are my mental condition and remaining physically active enough to enjoy the activities I like to do most. There is no doubt that now that I am 57, I cannot do the things I used to do; however, mobility to ride a motorcycle, play golf, play disc golf, canoe, walk, etc. is important.
Being sedentary won’t allow you to do these things. Activity on a regular basis also keeps your mind active. I have, for some reason or another, begun to enjoy reading, which I never really liked to do before. I have always enjoyed crosswords and word games, tinkering on little projects in my garage, flying R/C helicopters and planes.
Remember, as someone once told me and I have never forgotten, that the time you spend in retirement is "me" or "your" time. I am doing things for myself that I enjoy, no longer because I must as part of my job, as much as I enjoyed it.
Work on a project that you have been wanting to do for long time and procrastinated about doing, even though you may not be looking forward to doing it. When it is completed, you will feel productive and can get that feeling of accomplishment that we miss so much.
Another part of retirement that we must not forget about is our loved ones. Now more than ever, we are finally able to spend more quality with them. It is not only an adjustment for you, but for them, too!
Both sides may need time to get used to having you around more. It may come to the point that they may want you to go find something to do and get out of their hair for a while, as much as they love you!
I started driving for Uber for a while and still do on occasion. The revenue may not be as much as when you were actively working; however, I found it was a good fit for me.
It’s kind of like responding to a call when an alert pops up on the smartphone and then having to get to the location of the client. You take pride in your vehicle, and setting a high standard for a company you believe in.
The best part is meeting meet new people and having great conversations — therapy for the brain. Regardless of what plans you have when you retire, remain active and don’t vegetate or become a couch potato. You will like yourself better in the long run and enjoy life.