There are a number of people edging towards retirement, wondering what they will do on the other side of the employment valley. At first, that seems like a silly question. Why? You will sleep in! Travel! Volunteer! Spend more time with the kids and grand-kids! Those goals are well and noble and rightly deserved. We all need a little “me” time, not interrupted any more by angry bosses, disgruntled co-workers, screaming toddlers or misguided politicians. I myself am looking forward to “sleeping in”, although if I still have three dogs and two cats by then, well, you get my drift.

But at second glance, we have to get real. Most kids are working and most grand-kids are in school. Unless you’ve stashed away a good amount of cash, or have planned meticulously, most of our vacations will be more like going out to dinner once in a while or a shopping day in the Big City (which is okay, too). We can catch up on all the reading we missed along the way, we can listen to free concerts in the park, or go to the library or Redbox and rent movies (all things I intend to do too).

But are we still growing? Are we still learning? Are we still satisfied?

The desire for knowledge never really stops. Oh, it might take a nap, or have a tendency to wander now and then, but humans always are trudging or running or dancing towards learning more. We want to feel that we have something valuable to offer. To others – to ourselves. So what do able bodied, restless, retired people do to scratch the free time itch?

You let your hobby become your obsession.

It’s really not hard to do, and there’s nothing “sinister” about the word obsession, either. You may chuckle, but it’s a lot easier to fall in love with your hobby/passion when you have the time to fall in love. You are finally able to nurture that seed you planted so long ago and never got around to watering.

Back in the day, my father-in-law retired at 55 and moved to Northern Wisconsin. Alas, he found it hard to live on his early social security and early pension, so he took a part-time job for a few more years. But he never gave up his true love – fishing. He found ways to turn his passion into a full-time business as a fishing guide. And in that transformation his passion became others passions. He organized and ran Fishing Has No Boundaries, a day of fishing with challenged children; he volunteered to teach kids boat safety; and passed his love of the game onto his sons and grandsons.

I myself can’t wait to jump into the writing world with two retired feet. “Why bother?” you may ask. “You already write. And besides, you’ll not likely make any money from it.” You are right on the second count; there are few of us who will be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. But who cares? There’s a soulful satisfaction in creating worlds and situations and laughs and tears that are not my own. Besides, do Master Gardeners make lots of money on their prize roses? Do artists sell every sketch they create? Do those who restore antique cars get paid for their labor? They do it because they love their calling.

The word “passion” doesn’t always equate with money. Sure, some are fortunate enough to start their own business once they retire. Answering to no one else after all those years of saying, “yes, boss,” offers a satisfaction seldom felt in the working world. But what if we don’t have the ability to carry out those kinds of dreams?

The world is full of other niches waiting to be filled. Passion doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, either. Buying jewelry at a second-hand store to create your own new jewelry line; perfecting your needlepoint so you can stitch heirlooms; improving your sewing so you can make your and your family’s Renaissance Faire costumes – what’s not to keep you busy? Taking cooking lessons after all these years are just as fun as pulling out old cookbooks and entertaining. Can you train your dog? Can you train other people’s dogs? There is a niche for you, too. My father-in-law loved restoring old cars, and did it a couple of pieces at a time. His ’57 Chevy was shining proof that he loved what he was doing.

Don’t hesitate in planning your obsession, either. Get excited. Jam 20 pounds of projects into a 10 pound bag. Don’t worry if you don’t get it all done before you come up with more ideas, either. The more things you want to get done the better. I not only have novels I want to write, but I’d like to take a spin at writing a horror story and an avant-garde sort of new wave piece (I made that up – it sounds intriguing, though, doesn’t it?), and even a play. I have ideas for a photography website and think about adding a totally different sort of blog to my repertoire. All because I love playing with words.

Some have a flair for color. Others a creative angle with a camera. Still others a unique palate. Now that you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, develop those talents. Paint. Build. Cook. The sky’s the limit. Don’t make any money from them? So what? You’re developing you.

Come on. Retirement’s not far away. Why not plant some seeds now? Just think of what a garden you’ll have started by the time you get there. You’ll not only have a garden – you’ll have a field.