Keep calm and find something to do

There’s no way to sugar-coat the retirement story. And no point in doing so. One day, you’re a fully-fledged member of society. The next, you’re excess to global requirements and no one could give a hoot about you.

If you’re lucky, you might be asked to consult, or in some way to contribute. Your standing instructions, however, become: get out of the way. That’s it. Retirement is strictly for the birds, unless you get out and find something to do, some purpose to live. The stats show that retirees with a purpose live longer.

Retirement can be a fairly savage blow, especially if your self-esteem was high as your career careened along. No matter how much advance notice you have of an impending retirement, the day it happens — actually, a few days after it happens, when it beings to sink in — is no fun.

The solution, of course, applies to retirement as it does to any other major transition: plan ahead. If this sounds trite, that’s because it’s true. Planning will soften the blow and give you a sense of retaining some control over your life.

Those observations delivered, a few personal notes, so that you may ‘check my privilege’.

I had about nine months’ notice that the end was nigh. The news meant relocating, in my case back to the UK. In those months, I was able to arrange for somewhere to live, functional upon arrival.

For more than 20 years, my life plan had called for me to emulate a hero of mine, Marion Robb. A reporter on the newspaper I worked at, she came into the office every day until well into her late 70s, if not beyond, and filed flawless copy throughout.

I was laid off in my early 60s. I still have the odd piece of work, but they’re irritants, frankly, because I’d rather free-form here in the ether. I live what I call a half-life in a half-town. It suits me perfectly. I couldn’t be happier.

If you have to ask what I do all day, you’re not a potterer. I worked insanely hard for 20 years and saved my beans in case I became old enough to need some. No cell phone, no TV: much less stress. I am a useless member of society, apparently, and I’m having a ball.

With all the planning in the world, the end of my working life came as a mind-numbing shock. Now, almost three years since the axe fell, I still find myself unable to comprehend what happened, but the fact is that I don’t care. I had been a decorated officer. Well, I was in a decorated office, anyway.

The trick is to remain positive. I used to be someone; now I’m someone else. That’s as good as it gets.

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