Re-Entry

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

When astronauts return from earth’s orbit to the constraints of our planet’s atmosphere, they face a fascinating re-entry. After surviving that intense moment of re-entering the atmosphere, they must learn to adjust to the forces of gravity on their bodies.  To life back with their families.  To driving.  To life on earth.

But astronauts are not alone. We all face various moments of “re-entry” in our lives, those periods where things change and we’re forced to adjust to our new reality.  Some are big and some are small, but it’s always helpful to go through life with a plan for dealing with the inevitable change that life brings.

Life is about making adjustments.  

  • School to work. 
  • Single to married. 
  • Parenthood. 
  • Retirement.

I’m making an adjustment as I write these words. I suspect we all are. 

Today, some thoughts on making adjustments as life continues to evolve around us.

Life is all about making adjustments. I'm going through one as I write these words. Lessons learned from my latest Re-Entry... Click To Tweet

Re-Entry

Last week, in How To RV in Retirement, I mentioned that we had just returned from The Great Escape, a one-month RV trip to Michigan’s Upper Penisula.  What I failed to mention was the realities of adjusting to the “RV Life”, and then back to the “Home Life” upon our return.  Maybe not as big a change as an astronaut, but an adjustment nonetheless. It’s an interesting experience, and there are some lessons we can all learn from the adaptations we make on both the “outbound” and “inbound” leg.

Some adjustments are self-imposed and minor, like the one I’m currently experiencing during my Re-Entry.

Others are imposed upon us and major, like the many life-changing adjustments we’re all making due to COVID.

Regardless of how we came to face our “Re-Entry” situation, life is full of situations that require us to adapt, adjust and “re-enter” our new reality. 

Figuring out how to do it well is a key tool in our toolbox for a successful life.


How I’m Managing My Current Re-Entry

For the past month, my routine has been anything but “normal”.  RV’ing has a way of doing that, and it’s good for the soul. Hopefully, I’ve learned a few things during my adjustments that you can adapt and apply to whatever situation you’re currently facing.

First, we should recognize that change is good.  We all need to shake things up from time to time.  There’s something refreshing about creating a change in our routines.  To force adjustments.  To view things differently.  The Great Escape accomplished those things for me, and it was a welcomed break.   It’s one of the main reasons we embrace the RV lifestyle in retirement – it forces change to our routines.  Even if your re-entry was imposed upon you, there’s value in maintaining a positive attitude as you work your way through the many adjustments you’ll face in life. Perhaps your “imposed change” will lead to something better in your life.

Change is good.  Embrace it.


TIP:  Seek out opportunities to embrace the inevitable changes in your life.  Routine is boring, change is good.


During the first few days of an RV “outing”, my wife and I are a bit off-kilter.  Our “Home Routine” has changed and we haven’t yet adapted to the new one.  It’s a reality that even the dogs seem to realize.  Things are different. It’s stressful, in spite of the reality that we’re heading out with excitement on a new RV journey. It’s a strange feeling, but we’ve both learned to embrace it, be patient, and allow a few days for our “re-entry” to our new reality.  Within 5 days, we’re settled into our new routines and life returns to a new “stable”.  With a minor change, only 5 days are required.  For some of life’s big changes, months (years?) are often required to complete your re-entry process.


TIP:  Be patient, maintain a positive attitude, and find things you enjoy in the change.  Give the adjustment time to happen.


Hiking Lake Michigan’s Arcadian Dunes – adjusting to a new way of exercise.

Finding things you enjoy – an example:  During our “Home Life”,  classes at the local gym are a major part of my daily routine.  I’ve found a focus on fitness to be one of my true joys in retirement, it means a lot to me. Obviously, during our “RV Life” this reality evaporates (not to mention the 2-month closure of the gym during COVID).  I miss Spin Class, but I don’t obsess about it.  Instead, I embrace the challenge of finding new ways to exercise.  My wife and I treasure our hikes with the dogs in new locales (we love camping in the State Parks due to their many hiking trails).  We intentionally book campsites near lakes so I can experience swimming in different water.  I strap my mountain bike on the back of the RV and enjoy seeking out new trails to explore.  We’ve tried everything to find new ways to weave fitness into our RV lifestyle, and we’ve found a few that “stick”.  


TIP:  If you’re struggling with a change, continually try new things as you work through the adjustment.


Speaking of swimming, it’s become a joy of mine in the past few years.  After being seduced by The Serpentine Swimming Club, I joined them for an outdoor London swim on a chilly 33° morning in November 2016.  (If you’re interested in what a “Re-Entry” adjustment to really cold water feels like, you’ll have to check out that link.  Those tremors are truly horrible wonderful.)  I’ve used Cold Water Swimming as a personal challenge, and it helps me as I adjust with other re-entry adjustments in my life.  When adjusting to the RV Life on our recent trip, for example, I looked forward to knowing that Lake Superior was waiting for me.

She did not disappoint.

Below is a photo taken just prior to my first swim in Lake Superior.  I loved it so much, I repeated the swim a mere 18 hours later.  Lake Superior’s cool clear water is something amazing to behold.  In 10′ of water, the bottom looked close enough to touch.  Beautiful (and cold) water!

Cold Water Swimming in Lake Superior – now THAT is a “re-entry adjustment”
The lesson is this – if you can find something, anything to develop a challenge for yourself, you may find that it helps with your re-entry adjustment.  Having something that you’re working toward can improve your focus on the positives of your change, instead of the negatives which we seem pre-programmed to notice.
 
I’ll summarize it this way:
 


As a (hopefully) interesting side note, it’s fun to find a way to document your accomplishments.  As my ability to explore distant lakes has become a reality in retirement, I’ve started collecting rocks at the completion of each new swim.  Looking at my growing “collection” is a fun way to relive the experience, and I’d encourage you to find unique ways to reward your achievements in retirement.  (You’ll see Lake Superior’s rock in the lower right of the pic):

Oddly, the re-entry back to “Home Life” is more stressful than the adjustment required when we first hit the road.  The feeling of pulling back into our driveway creates a sense of stress as we think about all the things that need to be done.  The re-entry has been similar on the return from every RV trip, and I’m becoming familiar with the feeling.

The grass is out of control.  Those weeds around our firepit have taken over.  I’m WAAAYYY behind on managing this blog due to the month-long sabbatical.  We have a list of things to do, and it seems to have grown out of control in our absence.


TIP:  Prioritize the tasks most important for your re-entry.  Don’t get overwhelmed, just focus on tackling a few things each day, starting with those which are creating the most stress. Give yourself time to work through the backlog.


So…What Does This Have To Do With You?

I’ll be the first to admit that my example of the RV Lifestyle is a MINOR adjustment in life.  However, I believe that having a process to manage change can be beneficial to almost any change you’re going through in life and that the tips provided in today’s post can help with whatever re-entry adjustment you’re facing.

Let’s look at one that has impacted all of us, COVID.  No one has avoided it’s impact, right?

So, let’s have a look at how these tips could help someone deal with the changes brought about by COVID.   Pulling from the tips summarized above:

  • Seek out opportunities to embrace the inevitable changes in your life.  Routine is boring.  Let’s face it, we’re stuck with this thing for a while, so don’t fight it.  Find a way to embrace it.  You’re able to avoid that commute and work from home?  Hooray!  (I bet you’re not looking forward to resuming that commute when this is over, right?).  Find a way to embrace the change, whatever that looks like for you.
  • Be patient, maintain a positive attitude, and find things you enjoy in the change.  Give the adjustment time to happen.  Do you remember when the COVID shutdowns first hit?  It feels a lot different now than it did then, right?  You’ve made adjustments and life has gone on. I hope you’ve found the extra time with family to be something you now cherish.  It’s possible to find something you enjoy with almost any change, some just require you to look harder than others.
  • If you’re struggling with a change, continually try new things as you work through the adjustment.  I’ve heard from a lot of readers who have struggled with their retirement in the midst of COVID.  That’s certainly understandable.  Travel plans abandoned.  Family visits canceled, etc.  The adjustment to retirement is hard in “normal” times, and I have deep empathy for those who have been forced into an unplanned retirement earlier than planned.   However, the advice to “continually try new things” rings true as a valid approach to deal with the situation.  Sure, it’s not enough to solve all of your problems, but it certainly isn’t going to hurt.  I’ve been asked by several of you to write a post about retirement in the midst of COVID, and it’s in my hopper for potential posts.  Stay tuned.
  • Create challenges that provide a sense of accomplishment in your new reality.  Find a way to push yourself to accomplish something new.  Focus on the positives, not the negatives. I’ve heard from many folks about the “To-Do list” items they’ve been able to complete due to COVID.  That landscaping project you’ve been wanting to complete?  Done.   Pat yourself on the back.  You took a bad situation and you found a way to accomplish something in spite of the negative circumstances.  Felt good, didn’t it?

Before we know it, COVID will (hopefully) be a thing of the past, and we’ll be undergoing yet another re-entry into a new Post-COVID world.  While many have enjoyed the ability to work from home these past months, at some point, there will be an inevitable reality that some time will have to be spent in the office.  Those commutes were easy to let go, and they’ll be very hard to adjust to in the new re-entry.  I’ve got to say, I’m thankful I’m retired and won’t have to deal with that adjustment.

Change will never stop.

It’s up to us to find ways to ease the transitions life will continue to bring.


Conclusion

I realize many people are making some very difficult re-entry adjustments in life, and my RV example is far from the best analogy to discuss how to deal with a major change in your life.  Regardless, it’s something that I’m going through as I write these words, and I think it does have wider application for you in whatever situation you’re facing.

I feel deep empathy for those who are facing severe hardship from our current COVID situation.  My heart breaks for a friend’s wife who recently found herself widowed, shortly after her husband’s retirement. My Dad has been locked down in his assisted living facility since March.  I know my tips are insufficient to address these many deep wounds.

And yet…

When you’re facing change, especially hard change, you’ve got to do something.  You’ve got to find a way to manage your Re-Entry.  The only thing constant is change, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.  Hopefully, you can find something in these tips that’s useful for your situation.  Continually seek solutions.  Learning to manage change, no matter how severe, is something we all need to get better at.  So, let’s leverage this blog to help each other out.  For that, I’m asking for your help: 

Your Turn:  What tips can you share about how you’ve learned to manage change in your life?   When faced with serious change, what have you found helpful to deal with the situation?  Let’s chat in the comments…

27 comments

  1. I used that same analogy of a re-entry in a post I wrote to describe how I feel when I come back from my long climbing trips in the mountains. The transition from a low stress and quiet environment, with no devices and notifications and distractions, back to the frantic reality of a city is jarring. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but I think re-entry is your great way to describe it.

    1. Dave, your comment reminds me of my “re-entry” after working for an entire summer in the solitude of Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. The one thing that stuck with me was how loud cars sounded on the road after spending 3 months “in the bush” without a single car passing by. Great memories, jarring re-entry.

      1. Ha! I’ll share a very nice camping site we had in WA, that unfortunately was too close to the freeway (on the other side of a pretty wooded creek). While their roads were decent, the cement was worn off so they were exposing the aggregate which made them louder than loud. When I woke up, my wife is on her phone making a reservation at the next stop. Personally, I took some friendly advice of another couple stating that earplugs are very handy in a lot of camping environments (wind flapping our pop-up [or tent], rain, etc.).

  2. I am a former space shuttle Mission Control flight controller (first career through the 90’s). My work took me through dozens of space shuttle missions. The analogy of re-entry is one that I have used often to describe retirement to my friends. But for a different reason. When the shuttle returns to earth, it literally turns around, opposite the direction of travel, and burns the small engines in the back for several seconds and slows down ever so slightly, but enough to start its fall out of the sky. It is a step that cannot be undone once the engines start. From then on, the shuttle has just enough speed (energy) to fly half way around the world to a pinpoint landing as a glider. The engines to me were an analogy to the power to earn money. This was similar to my decision to retire at 54 years old and start my new adventure in retirement. It definitely felt like all my numbers had to be crunched and checklist items completed (predictables) before making a decision to leave my career, before being “GO” for re-entry. My “landing” will not occur for many years I hope, but so far so good and our decision seems to have been the right one. My wife joined me recently and making her own re-entry, synchronized beautifully with mine. Thank you for all you have shared over the years Fritz. I hope you got to bike in Ohio as we have a few unexpected great ingke track trails here.

    1. Daniel, what a GREAT comment – thanks for the excellent addition from an actual Mission Control flight controller! Great analogy for the transition into retirement, best of luck on your final glide to the ultimate landing. Re: Ohio, we actually camped at Mohican, which I’ve heard has amazing MTB trails. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ride there since we commited that time to visiting family who lived nearby. As Douglas Macarthur said when he left the Phillipines, “I’ll be back”.

  3. Great post Fritz. Timely as I feel a bit of “re-entry” here in Michigan from the fast paced summer months (given the awesome weather this summer) to fall like weather this week. Definite change in pace w/ new opportunities.

  4. We faced a huge re-entry phase when we moved back to the U.S. after decades spent abroad. For two Americans it seemed we knew very little about American culture! Culture shock is real and we went through the research identified stages of giddiness, frustration, adjustment, and finally acceptance. While overseas we didn’t experience family drama at close range, were only mildly interested in politics and were rarely in a consumer state of mind. Once we made the decision to return prior to retirement we experienced something new nearly every day as we took on jobs in the local community that we now love, adjusted to family and sought out new friendships. There’s a saying in K-12 education – “monitor and adjust” – it suited us to repeat it often. No decisions are carved in stone, thoughts & feelings are only temporary, every day is a new day towards creating a new life. We try to enjoy the ride.

    1. MdH, I experienced a bit of that “reverse culture shock” after I spent a semester abroad in Liverpool during college. They say the re-entry back to the USA is actually harder than the outbound leg to the new country. I know it was for me, and it sounds as though it also was for you. Funny how it can be so hard to adjust to life in “your” country after being gone a while, I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been after being gone for “decades”! Monitor and adjust, indeed.

  5. Hi Fritz
    I can really empathise with you. We feel the same when we leave on our 1-2 months Slow Travel trips. The first few days are all about exploring our new surroundings, finding places to buy food, understanding the public transport and trying to understand a little of what is often a foreign language and culture. Exciting and scary all at the same time.
    And then you get home, settling back into some sort of a routine. You are missing the place you have just been, yet you are glad to be home, but everything feels weird. Re-entry is a good way to put it.
    This year, we aren’t even getting the chance to experience it, thanks Covid, and it has caused enough anxiety thank you!

  6. Great Post and very interesting.

    Re-Entry to/from vacation is generally easy for me in that I do not stress on it at all… at all times I wait for instructions from my wife, who takes the load of stressing. As long as I comply, all is good.

    Entry into retirement in June after 44 years was challenging, probably because COVID precluded many of the plans I’d made.

    Like you, I look forward to re-entry into the world post-COVID, though not at all sure what it will look like. 🙂

  7. Re-Entry- Is what my son and his wife are experiencing! He has just returned home from his 5th deployment. He is a Captain, soon to be Major (yep proud mom here!) in the Army. They give themselves time to find a new norm once he returns. It is the whole two become one again. Instead of two sperate lives, now they must live as a couple. They find a new hobby or interest neither know much about or is good at, and attack it with gusto. This way they both are in the same learning curve on something new. They now scuba dive and both are certified rescue divers.

    1. 5th DEPLOYMENT! Wow! A justifiably proud Mom, congrats on his promotion to Major. My son-in-law has been deployed 3 times, and I thought he’d done a lot. Great point about the difficulty of re-entry for our Patriots, my heart goes out to the many who suffer with lifelone PTSD as a result. Underappreciated by many, but not by this author. Please pass along my appreciation to your son, his sacrifice is noted and appreciated.

  8. When facing some consequential change in my life, I remind myself of the many things that aren’t changing. In most cases, there’s much more in my life that isn’t changing than is. A bit simple perhaps, but it has proven helpful in keeping me from feeling overwhelmed. What is unchanging serves as an anchor of sorts while my boat of life is being buffeted about by inevitable storms.

  9. I’m one of the lucky ones during COVID. Even though our state in Australia has been hardest hit, (we’re in our second lockdown, curfew and all), I have a secure job, I have been teaching from home for the last 3 months and I have 2 of my sons living with me so I have congenial company. Plus the dogs, of course!

    I’m a Projects girl. So far I’ve made 3 Pandemic quilts, painted 2 Pandemic fences and have turned half my front yard into an orchard. Lots of other jobs are being ticked off the list – it’s amazing how much more time you have when the hour and a half commute times is given back!

    I’ll be retiring at the end of our school year. December 18 will be my last day. I’m 57. I was going to work another year but 2 lockdowns have made me see I’ll be perfectly happy at home and I won’t be bored. So I guess I’ll be experiencing re-entry myself at Christmas time!

    1. Froggy, you are fortunate, indeed. I suspect teaching from home with 2 boys and the dogs offers it’s share of challenges. I’m impressed with how many projects you’ve completed, sounds like you’re following my advice!

      Congrats on crossing The Starting Line in December, you’re going to love life on this side of the line (once you get through the “Re-Entry”, of course. Smiles).

  10. Hi Fritz,
    Appreciated your re entry post. Scott and I feel this every time we travel to the west coast to spend extended time with the family there, and then return to the Midwest. We do give ourselves time to adjust and limit our expectations initially, as we adjust to the culture differences and life styles of each family. So thankful for family and friends who welcome us with open arms and are sad when we leave each location. We are blessed!

    1. Yvonne!! Great to see an old friend leaving a comment on my blog! I’m sure the “re-entry” from Oregon to Ohio is extreme, two very different cultures and you’re living in both of them. Wow. Say hi to Scott from me, hope to see you two again soon. Not sure if we told you that Maddi & Marcus are relocating from Washington to Alabama, so no more West Coast meetups with you. Sad about that, but happy to have them nearby starting in November!

  11. Great post Fritz, I look forward to reading your comments every week. You always have a way of providing insightful comments on different aspects of retirement life that are thought provoking.
    My wife and I are about to embark on our annual Fall rv trip, and as usual we are not exactly sure where we will be going. When we first retired, 7 years ago, we would plan out where we wanted to go, stay, and what we where going to see. That planning suited us well every Fall and Spring for several years. But after a few years we discovered the freedom of just driving around the country with no particular place to go. There is something to see and do everywhere if you seek it out.
    And we can appreciate your comments about the aspects of the
    “re-entry” issues when we experience change in our lives. My wife and I go through it every time we leave on a trip and again when we return. Although we have become more familiar with the routine of change, it’s still an adjustment that we have learned to look forward to. If there is one thing that we have learned about retirement life is that we never really know what is going to happen from day to day. Even when we think we have planned everything thing out very carefully, down to every detail that we think we have under our control, things never unfold exactly as we anticipate. This aspect of our life is why we are thoroughly enjoying our retirement experience, we really have no idea where it will led us in the future.

    1. 31, thanks for your active involvement with my blog, much appreciated. You’re a braver man than I am, driving around without a pre-arranged place to spend the night. We may have to test out your approach in the coming years. Enjoy your Fall RV trip in ____. Brave man, indeed. 🙂

  12. I kept trying to find something to compare to in your post. But there have not been a lot of major changes in my life. I had only one job as an adult, one spouse for the last 42 years and only the one house for 40 years. We raised three kids but they are grown and located in fairly distant places. Even in retirement I still consult and work with many of the same people from my former career. I just work less and play more and it continues to feel very much the same, which is great because it’s a life I love! My extensive volunteer work is with the same nonprofits I worked with for decades. We play the same sports, run the same miles, hike and bushwhack, fish and travel. Covid has had nearly zero impact on our lives. And instead of finding it boring I love the fact that there is so much continuity in my life. Maybe I’m just in a permanent orbit? Of course there are minor changes all the time, we added pickleball to our list of active hobbies last year, but the fact that is all I could think of exemplifies how stable my life is.

Comments are closed.