Turning 50: Rethinking the Perfect Day

As you age, your wants and needs change. Your abilities change. Your surroundings, in terms of both people and places, may change. Also, you change.

Caroline, the author of this post revisiting the ingredients of her perfect day, has seen a number of changes in herself and her life since first conjuring up what a perfect day might look like after retiring.

I can also tell you from my own experience that the vision of a perfect day and the reality of how I end up spending my days don’t always align very well, but I can say that it’s easier to come closer to a perfect day when there’s no job taking up most of it!

This post was originally published on Costa Rica FIRE.

 

 

Both Scott and I turned 50 this year. Neither of us are into celebrating birthdays, and we are still in the midst of a pandemic, so we didn’t throw a big party or anything else extraordinary. I also wasn’t anticipating a mid-life crisis or other inflection point. In fact, I felt that turning age 48 was a bigger turning point for us. In the fall of that year, we became empty-nesters, spent a month in Costa Rica (our longest trip to date) and were set up to embark on a stretch of travel.

We did squeeze in trips to Arizona and the Philippines before the pandemic postponed the rest of our 2020 travel plans. That year was focused on staying safe and finding a new normal amidst the various restrictions. Already set up to work virtually, I threw myself into my work, figuring that we would resume our travels sooner than later.

We’re nearly two years into the pandemic. While we have returned to Costa Rica this past July and did a month-long domestic road trip, more traveling isn’t so appealing right now. Working more was a welcome distraction during lockdown but I want to do something different than what I had been doing before. If not traveling more, what would be the focus of our 50’s?

 

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My original “Perfect Day”

 

Five years ago, I participated in a blog challenge, where you write 10 days in a row. The organizer of the challenge posted prompts, and everyone in the challenge wrote on that same topic. Day 3 happened to be about “Visualizing Your Perfect Day.” Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote then:

My Perfect Day is not scheduled or routine, so I’m definitely not going to make this a time log – with 5:00 am doing this and 5:30 am doing that….Instead, I know my Perfect Day includes these essential elements:

  • Pancakes (not eating them. I’ll explain in the details section!)
  • Piano
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Beach
  • Movies and shows

 

 

I started with pancakes because I cook them for my youngest once a week (mostly every week but sometimes we’ll go out for breakfast instead). Pancakes, to me, represents the cooking and baking at home activity with the family and for the family. When I’m doing that, it feels like a big expanse of time, even though it’s usually just an hour, sometimes even less. This activity really grounds me, whether it’s actually pancakes or roast chicken or baked pasta (three of my family’s favorite dishes of mine) or something else.

Piano is actually something new on my list because after not playing for almost 20 years, I’ve been planning almost every day for the past year, accompanying my youngest who has taken to singing. I’ve advised her to start a YouTube channel called Young Kids singing Old Songs because she’s really into the standards like Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Misty! Piano is another activity which makes me feel like a time millionaire – I’m fully absorbed while I’m doing it and time just flies.

Exercise, meditation and journaling are the three activities in my morning ritual. I don’t do these nearly regularly enough, and that would change if I had truly perfect days. I would earmark my mornings always for exercise, plus meditation, plus journaling. I know I’m overscheduled when I miss these too many days in a row because my best thinking time is early AM, and when I choose to work in the early AM, then I know I’ve overscheduled my work!

I’m not at the beach now, so this is the biggest missing piece of my Perfect Day! Walking by the water, standing ankle-deep and looking out, watching the waves crest and fall – I would love to do that most days. We already have our condo in Florida for this purpose!

Movies or live shows is another luxury for me. I probably see something several times a week. And I have 200+ movies queued up in my Netflix account.

As you can see, I haven’t included anything specifically work-related. My Perfect Day includes elements I have now – writing, teaching, coaching, consulting, recruiting, investing.  My Perfect Day would include any one of those things, many times more than one. The variety makes it perfect. I’ll just port that part of my work over to the beach!

 

Rethinking my Perfect Day

 

When I revisited that old Perfect Day post, I was struck by how many things are the same. We didn’t move the piano to Florida with us, and my youngest is in college, so I am no longer accompanying her on show tunes. However, everything else is still a priority.

I do feel a void where a creative pursuit should be. So far, visiting the beach has taken up the time where piano used to be. We went to the beach 122 times in 2020! I did take some Jazzercise classes, which was sort of like dancing. I also riffed on YouTube with a theater friend of mine on our shared love for horror movies. I’m thinking about teaching myself guitar or getting back into singing or just moving the piano down here.

Another inflection point for me is the balance between work and play. Five years ago, I was definitely 80/20 work/play. I expected this new phase to be 50/50, but I’m finding it hard to stick to that. Part of it is not having travel as part of my play list. Another significant aspect is feeling like I should be doing more. I envy my friends who can do nothing for hours or even days at a stretch and not feel guilty. I need to learn how to do that.

One of the things I’ve recently done to combat the guilt is to flip my schedule so that I don’t even start work activities till the afternoon. So far that has helped me exercise more, read more, and be more consistent in my meditation time. A big drawback is that I blog much more easily in the early morning, so figuring out a new writing practice is still TBD.

 

Rethinking weeks, months, and years ahead

 

Figuring out the day-to-day is still a work in progress. In addition, I want to have more certainty around how I’ll plan upcoming weeks, months and even the next few years. Even a 50/50 schedule of work and play is 20 hours a week devoted to a profession. I have been working on my career coaching business since 2008 – I am itching to do something new. That exploration will be the topic of future posts.

 



 

In the meantime, what’s your perfect day?

 

2 thoughts on “Turning 50: Rethinking the Perfect Day”

  1. Love this article. I am a firm believer that as we age, or come into our attending salary, time becomes our most precious resource, not money. Yes, my site, the PoF, the WCI, etc is all about how to be smart with your money. But there is the point! Work smarter, not harder. With financial freedom, I think most are looking to free up more time so they can consider more “perfect days” like this! Stay motivated!

    The Motivated M.D.

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  3. I like the perfect day idea. My fiftieth year on the planet was one of my best. I ran my lifetime fastest marathon and won a lot of tennis matches. Now at 66 a perfect day starts early before 5AM when my wife and I get up to meet our running friends and knock off a few miles. Later in the day would be a couple of hours of singles tennis against a strong opponent/friend and then in the evening a couple of hours of pickleball matches at a group meet up at our outdoor courts in the park. Also in there would be cooking breakfast and lunch for my wife and probably snacking for supper, since pickleball squeezes that out. A day like that lets me spend time with my wife and also with probably nearly twenty to thirty other friends across the active hobbies. And we have three of those perfect days each week. Not to mention the perfect fishing days and hiking days, lots of them too since we retired slightly early. Then there are a lot of days that center around the college I’m a trustee at or the charity foundation I chair or the students I mentor. Those are not usually as much fun but they are rewarding in another way because they are changing peoples’ lives for the better, and that’s a longer lasting and deeper kind of fun. The one thing I don’t waste time on any more is paid work, or only rarely as a favor to friends.

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