Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Anchors Aweigh

January 1, 2012 was my first day of retirement. Even though it was a right and well-timed decision, I had wondered just exactly what I would feel on that first morning, the point from which everything could or would change.

I am happy to say that I had no panic, no ringing reverberations that I had made the wrong decision. As I awoke, the first thing that popped into my mind was that I was unmoored.

I was intrigued about the reason for that particular word. Why "unmoored"? Why not "untethered," or "afloat," or "adrift"? They all denote similar conditions.

Metaphor is at work here, as is connotation.

Work had made me feel tethered for a good while - an animal tied and restricted to a limited radius. But a sense of the rope and the fixed point around which it circles remains in the word "untethered."
Whoever owns the animal controls both tethering and untethering.  So, while I was tethered then, now I am simply free.

Being tied to work limits the radius of pretty much all of one's activities: when and where to travel, when to do the laundry, when to get up, when to go to sleep, when to eat and drink, when to shop. And though I am unlikely to take up street hockey on Wednesdays or start doing laundry at 3:00 A.M., every routine, every activity is free from the considerations of how it will fit with the demands of work.

If I do not feel untethered, neither do I feel adrift. To me, the word "adrift" has a slightly negative connotation. A ship adrift on the ocean implies that there is no choice - there is no option of simply raising a sail or starting an engine. Coleridge's Ancient Mariner was adrift. Retirement definitely does not feel like an albatross of no choices.

The word "afloat" feels as ever so slightly positive as "adrift" feels negative. It carries with it the definitions of being "in full swing" and "out of debt." Sounds good to me. But still there is a sense of drifting, rudderless and powerless.

"Unmoored" is exactly right. The word has two nautical meanings, both of which apply. Simply being set free of moorings is one meaning. Reducing mooring to only one anchor is the other. So here I am - free of the moorings of work, yet still anchored in life. Whenever I choose to raise that one anchor (or let it down again), I can choose direction and speed, or to just float for a bit.

Anchors aweigh!

(photo credit - http://mysailingadventures.blogspot.com/2009/11/big-fright.html)


Trulyfool said...


Best to you! (My wife retired last June -- loves it better than either of us thought!)


Hels said...

Do you have plans to do things that you did not have time to do, when you were a wage slave eg
-learn to play a particular instrument,
-learn a foreign language,
-travel to new destinations,
-launch or support a charity, close to your heart,
-collect antiques/art/sporting memorabilia,
-play bridge?

Ciss B said...

I like you images using all three words, and I agree with your choice, too. May your retirement be more than you hope for, and offer you the best of what life has to offer from now on! :-)

ChrisJ said...


I think I will love it as well. Thanks.

ChrisJ said...


Yes, I have some plans - re-visit the piano; take some art lessons and become a docent at the gallery; possibly learn French (re-learn, actually). Mostly to be open to what finds me.

ChrisJ said...


Thank you. I think it will be wonderful. I especially thought so this morning when I didn't have to teach an 8a.m.class!

Pearl said...

congrats. hope you have clear skies and a brisk wind.

ChrisJ said...


Thanks. Brisk is good!

Judie said...

After having been on the road for 28 years, Rod retired, and I thought he would be "adrift" but he was definitely "unmoored." Even though he was no longer working, however, his years of traveling every week created a desire to get back on the "open road" frequently. In the beginning, we took a lot of vacations, and trips (there is a difference in those two words!. Now he has settled down, and is content with doing fun things here at home.

Congratulations, ChrisJ, for finally being "unmoored!"

ChrisJ said...


Interesting ,isn't it, how our feelings about things can make the same activity one thing or another.

P. M. Doolan said...

Congratulations, what a fantastic way to start the new year. May a pleasant wind always be in your sails and keep you afloat.

ChrisJ said...


Thank you.

Owen Gray said...

Not only can you choose a direction now, Chris, but you can choose the pace at which you choose to move.

Our third son headed to university in September. It was the first time in 31 years we did not have children in the house. My wife and I were wondering if we would feel empty, like the house.

We have discovered that we are still tethered to the house; but we are able to move in a much larger circles.

ChrisJ said...


Yes, it's fun to decide just which circles.

Hels said...


When my last child married and moved into his own place, I also worried about the house feeling empty and silent. The worry didn't last for long :) The next day, I took the said son's bedroom, got a cabinet maker to add floor-to-ceiling book shelves on one wall and moved into my new study.

Now the sons can come and visit as often as they like, but they can't sleep here any more :)

ChrisJ said...


Good for you!

Cara Larose said...

Yeah, it's more like moving around at your own pace than wandering around without an aim. Take some time to adjust and adapt. Retirement is a great opportunity to discover new interests, or cultivate current ones. It's like an adventure, when you think about it.

ChrisJ said...

Thanks for commenting. It is like an adventure - lots of unknowns.