Thoughts on Retirement
Over the last few years I have lost track of the number of times people asked me when was I going to retire.
Questions like, “You’re not still working are you?” have inevitably given rise to niggles of doubt, and the feeling that I must of looked old or past it – or worse still – both! I kept thinking to myself, “do I look as though I need to put myself out to pasture? Am I perhaps not looking my best?”
Were the questions borne out of a genuine care for my wellbeing, or was it a subtle ploy to recruit me into the retirement club?
Whatever the motives, these questions only hardened my resolve and resistance. I simply wasn’t ready to hang up whatever you hang up at the end of a long and busy career. Besides, a good friend – already retired – had once told me “you will know instinctively when the time has come, so don’t worry. For many years I didn’t know …because I wasn’t ready.”
I think retirement had always seemed alien to me, something that other people did. I had attended a few retirement parties for friends and colleagues, always secretly glad that it wasn’t me waking up in the morning with nothing much to do. I couldn’t imagine what was so good about not being in the thick of things at work. I was naïve to think that retirement wasn’t the beginning, but the end.
What I couldn’t see was the sense of freedom the person might be feeling. I certainly didn’t appreciate the sense of euphoria that came with not having to be in a certain place at a certain time .That the day is yours, a blank canvas to fill with whatever takes your fancy. It doesn’t matter what time you get up because when you do, you can sit outside in the early morning summer sun, drink your cuppa and listen to the birds.
Unlike many of my friends I was a little ashamed to admit that I didn’t have any hobbies. Work was my hobby, it had taken me to interesting places, brought me into contact with many interesting people, and allowed me a great deal of creative freedom. It was a heady cocktail to give up. I lived by the familiar mantra “choose a job you love you and you will never have to work a day in your life” – and I didn’t.
I had five amazing years working on the flagship daytime show ‘This Morning’ during its heyday in Liverpool. I travelled the UK in a car that doubled as a mobile kitchen; full of pots, pans and props, along with food styling and staging for top chefs like Ainsley Harriott, Brian Turner, Ken Hom and Gary Rhodes.
My working days were long, physically demanding and deadline busting; but arriving on location on the beautiful North Norfolk coast on a golden morning, or flying off shore from Aberdeen to an oil rig to set up for a food programme were real ‘pinch yourself’ moments and I felt very lucky to be working in such special places. Why would I want to retire?
Gradually more of my friends and acquaintances took the plunge and embraced retirement. I was drawn into their world of volunteering at local community shops, post offices and libraries. Their lives had taken on a different but enjoyable dynamic which involved lots of travel, walking, cycling, singing in choirs and looking after grandchildren. But I still couldn’t see how these things fitted into my future. I might have worked in telly but I still don’t think that I could operate the till in the village post office!
Singing was out for me too, having been told once that I was tone deaf. As for riding a bike well, they say you never forget, but I beg to differ. I used to put my daughter in the seat on the back of my bike and ride the busy main road, yet, many years down the line we hired bikes during a holiday, only for me to crash less than 5 minutes after leaving the bike hire shop.
What chance did I have if I retired? I seemed to be a bit of a hopeless case on the hobby front.
The Food and Hospitality P.R business I had established was going from strength to strength and I had always loved the creative buzz of the business, but a series of events, both professional and personal collided.
Family members began to need more of my help and support; clients were coming to the end of contracts and a couple of key members of my team moved onto pastures new. This all combined with a couple of niggling health issues meant that I was finding it hard to summon up the enthusiasm for the work which had previously kept me driven and motivated.
I found myself hanging about at home for longer in the morning, reading the papers and sitting on the step having a cuppa in the spring sunshine and loving it. I began to want to take off on a whim to see the kids and grandchildren without planning, or to browse around the local shops midweek without feeling guilty.
As my good friend Helen had said, my instincts were beginning to tell me it was time to hang-up, whatever it is I needed to hang-up.
Following my decision to retire in 2017, what hit me immediately was the complete sense of freedom that suddenly there were no deadlines. It felt exhilarating to have a clear head without work fighting for attention.
Previously, even when I was going away for the weekend or on holiday I would still be mulling over projects, or sorting things out on the phone. Even at the airport I would be in the queue for the gate, still liaising with the team over something that seems so unimportant now…..How time has changed.
Now I actually enjoy the journey when we go away, chatting, listening to the radio, thinking about something…or nothing or even, just nod off!