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