Disclaimer: Sorry folks it's past my bedtime and my hands hurt. Hopefully any typos will add a bit of humor to your evening.
Last year, I decided that I was going to grow vegetables-lots of vegetables-in pots on my patio. Mind you, I had never grown so much as a petunia, being married to the guy who used to meditate and think he was one with the lawn. I knew that things grew-that was about it. I purchased (for almost free) some books, got some plants. I dug, I planted, I watered. I fertilized, I watered again (hey, it's Texas).I made a huge mess on my patio-and ended up with lots of white flowers, but no tomatoes. The end result was that I am apparantly not a very good gardener. More importantly, I suspect, gardening gave me no joy. I know now that I can garden if I have to. Meanwhile, I'll visit the farmers market, thank you very much. On the other hand, I'm glad I tried my hand. It was a worthwhile experience no matter the end result.
While the above paragraph is about gardening, the lessons learned work for most aspects of retirement. New experiences are worthwile-in and of themselves. Just for the fun and adventure, even if they don't "take".
Since I entered the "retirement zone", much of my time has been spent enjoying hobbies and interests developed in earlier times. I've spent a fair amount of time sewing and quilting, traveling, reading and doing all the things I felt I never had enough time for in pre-retirement. I've always felt that folks who develop interests in the working life are better prepared for for retirement than those have not. It has certainly worked for me.
But I've also tried many new things. On some level, I prefer a laid back, moderately active day to day lifestyle-with periods of travel and other "adventures" thrown in. Even so, I have a long list of things I want to do "someday". Only of course someday is now. Also, as laid back as I am, I'm a plan by the seat of my pants, always open to new ideas person. And of course, I'm a "let's" girl. As in, when someone comes along and says "let's learn the Horah so we can dance at Bill's wedding" my answer is likely to be "sure, why not" assuming no physical damage is involved.
What's important here are not the specifics, but rather being open to new experiences. Many things I try (such as the above gardening, and learning golf) get left behind. Ruled out as "I was glad I tried it but...." For me at least, that's okay. I'm not the mom who told her kids that if they signed up for ballet they could never stop. I'm the one who told them to try it for a couple months and if they didn't like it then they could try something else. My philosophy of life in general. The end result is that I learned something new, developed new skills and expanded my confidence all in one. I've realized that I like going to school, but not going to school. In the future I'll take courses that interst me-and if I ever get to that degree, THEN I'll take those required courses. Meanwhile, I'll learn what I want when I want.
Trying new things is always a risk on some level. In addition to those things I tried and dropped (whether I was good or not), there are things I've tried, enjoyed and kept in my life-even though my skill ability will probably always be what we in the quilting field call a confident beginner. In other words, I don't care if I'll ever be good or great. I just like playing. Swimming (with my damanged knee I'll probably never get beyond dog paddling), Yoga (I'm terrible but I love it and it increses my flexiblity), drawing and cooking (I was married to a chef for twenty some years) are all things I like doing-even if I end up always being a rank amateur. For me, the process counts as much as the end result.
On the other hand, there are some thing's I've tried that have either become passions, or really increased my skill and confidence. I'll say here that my husband and I were both independent types and as such we took separate and family vacations at one time or another (he had no interest in a quilting conference, and I no desire to ski Mont Blanc). However, I am a road tripper at heart. Taking the risk for my first two week trip alone was well worth it-I discoverd not only that I am confident traveling alone, but I actually enjoy these trips. I've learned that I love painting and making jewelry. The list could go on.
In fairness to other frugalite types out there I need to add that trying to things can be cost effective. You dont need a mint to expand your horizons. Be it traving on the road or learning to garden, you can do it on the cheap. Often when I see articles about frugal retirement, they talk about downsizing. Some folks seem to assume that means becoming insulated and leaving all the joy behind. There are many, many cost effective ways to try new things. My community college has a senior program-it costs $85 a year and one can take as many courses as they like. When I learned to sew, I did it with a needle and thread and then a basic sewing machine. Even when it comes to golf, my class was through the recreation center-and my clubs loaned. Yes, there are some hobbies that require a large investment if you continue onward (golf, boating, flying and perhaps sky diving being the most obvious). Most passtimes can be enjoyed and learned for minimal amounts of money-all thats needed is your time, interest and a way to learn (be it in person, from a book or on the web). Again, frugality is not about deprivation, unless you make it so.
Finally, my story on open minds and trying new things for this evening. Although the whole vacation is a story in it's own right, I've been known to talk about taking my son to Normandy, France for a week (the same son that watched The Longest Day. In black in white, at six years old, twice in a row. Willingly and happily). At the end of our week, on the last day, I decided we deserved on evening at a really good restaurant. When my appetizer came, my twelve year old looked at me and said "What is that??". I thought a minute and I said, "Well, I could lie to you, but I won't. These my dear, are snails". At which time he wrinkled his nose and said something that cannot be repeated. I added "Well, Im not going to force you, but you love butter, you love garlic and you love french bread. You really should try one".
The moral of this story? Never teach your child to eat escargot. Or steak tartare. Or lobster. Because then he grows up to expect escargot shells and tinned snails in his Christmas stocking. Sometimes new experiences are overrated.