Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Are you living on leftovers?

Sometimes an idea sticks in your head because you can express it in a word or two. The term "leftover living" came to me a while ago. It's the living we do in the time we have left over when we are not at work.

Now that I'm mostly retired, I feel like I spent almost four decades doing the living that matters most in time that was left over after work.

Think about the routine of most busy working people: Mornings are devoted to getting ready for work. Evenings begin with preparing then eating dinner. After dinner, a few hours are available — unless work has followed you home on your smartphone. Weekends are yours — unless they aren't because of career demands and the chores of maintaining a home. Commuting eats more time. Fatigue degrades what’s left. If there are kids, the struggle is even more intense.

So life outside of work — socializing, reading, learning, experiences, self-discovery, thinking, exercise, nature, culture, sports, citizenship, pleasure, passion, and dozens of other worthy pastimes that enrich a life — must get done in leftover islands of time. Work takes all the big bites.

Leftover living is especially relevant to people on the cusp of retirement who are holding back in default mode, staying at work because they are uneasy about retirement. Yet a steady diet of leftovers isn’t really good enough if you are a person who wants to make the most of the only life you have. And the older we get, the sharper that point becomes.

Naturally, most of us have to work for most of our lives, maybe even all of our lives, depending on finances.

But what if you have a choice at the end of a career?

A few of my friends and others I’ve met lately are at that point. They are peering into retirement and wondering what they will do. Their uneasiness is stalling their decision making. So they are defaulting to what they’ve always known: work.

And leftover living.

You are the project.

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