The biggest surprise about retirement is that I am busier now than when I had a regular job. My to-do list seems to get longer every day, even though I know I am continually completing tasks. Keeping busy with meaningful work is good advice to anyone contemplating retirement.

During my professional career, I earned a Ph.D. in ichthyology (the study of fishes) and was employed at the Waikiki Aquarium for 27 years, and then at the Georgia Aquarium for another nine years before retiring in 2011. One fact about biologists is that we continue doing the same kind of work in retirement as we did in our careers, except there is no longer a pay-check. Biologists never really lose what Rachel Carson called a “sense of wonder” when it comes to nature. My wife, Marj, and I find that sense of wonder underwater. I have been scuba diving for 52 years, and I suspect I will continue doing so until I can no longer strap on a scuba tank.

Photo by Marj Awai

Photo by Marj Awai

I don’t spend much time in regular volunteer service, but I have found other ways to give back to others. I am often asked to create video programs for friends or colleagues, which is a challenge because of the time this takes, but it is also rewarding to share what we see underwater because we know most people will never have this opportunity. I have a YouTube channel under my name where I post most of my videos. One of the most viewed underwater videos is this one filmed in the coral reefs around the Solomon Islands:

As a former aquarium director, I am often asked to testify at the Legislature on behalf of friends or colleagues on issues for which I have the expertise or have a passionate interest. Anyone involved in preparing testimony and sitting for endless hours waiting to testify will know how time-consuming this can be, and sometimes it can be endlessly frustrating too.

The more mundane activities that keep me busy include all the usual tasks such as yard work (which I do enjoy!), keeping up on household repairs, exercise (daily walks and bicycling), writing magazine articles, and some scientific papers too. I have also found that my 70-year-old brain can no longer remember what I had for breakfast, let alone what I did a week ago. So I created an e-diary on my computer where I keep track of our daily activities and add a “picture of the day.” I have also found that tracking expenses is essential to understanding where all the money goes. At the end of every day, I pull all the receipts from my pocket and enter them on an Excel spreadsheet. With luck and continued tracking, our retirement funds will last well into our 90s.

Never a dull moment with so much to do!